David Darlow, Mike Nussbaum and Roderick Peeples in Heroes
Photo credit: Johnny Knight
Remy Bumppo’s 2009-2010 season “explores the costs and profound joys of friendship,” according to press materials.
Gérald Sibleyras’ Heroes, a charming, gentle work smartly translated by Tom Stoppard, examines the relationships between three WWI veterans in 1959 as they spend their silver years on a terrace atop a French retirement home for former military men.
We gather that Gustave (David Darlow), Philippe (Roderick Peeples) and Henri (Mike Nussbaum) were each formidable men back in the day, and now they are bogged down by the ailments of old age: Some form of agoraphobia, chronic fainting, and a bum leg, respectively. However, they fight against their fates in this late, and possibly final, stage in life through dreaming, planning, arguing, gossiping and leaning on each other — sometimes quite literally. These are friendships born out of circumstance, respect and necessity.
This brief one-act features a trio of seasoned performers, with director James Bohnen stepping aside to let them drive the action. Nussbaum as spitfire Henri brings the most authenticity — a soft curmudgeon whose face lights up when revealing he’s been flirting with a much younger local woman (or rather, greeting her with a polite nod during his “daily constitution”).
Little more is offered in Sibleyras’ play than funny, warm banter and the bittersweet reality that their long-planned trip to the top of an off-distance mountain is merely a fantasy to stave off boredom and stasis. The power of companionship keeps these three men fighting on, and we are that much luckier to have respected them with our time and laughter.
Heroes runs through November 29 at the Greenhouse Theatre Center on 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. For more information, visit remybumppo.org.