Review – ‘Heroes’ at Cloverdale Performing Arts Center By Alexa Chipman
Retired veterans of World War I gather on the veranda of a hospital, subtly discontented with the monotony of their lives. Flashy escapades are in the distant past, replaced with dull hours under the close supervision of Sister Madeleine. With a bleak future before them, the men search for reasons to go on and something worth looking forward to. A ridiculous, endearing notion takes hold of them—escape. Despite Henri’s limp and Philippe’s fainting spells, they concoct a plan to venture across fields and hills to see the waving poplars visible on the far horizon for one last adventure. A glint of hope returns to their weary eyes, prompting passionate discussions and covert gathering of supplies. Written by
Robert Bauer’s acerbic wit and studious complaints as Gustave have a dark humor to them, covering a kindly disposition under the crust of irascible remarks. Cheerful optimist Henri is portrayed by Peter Immordino, who chides his friends into participating in the hospital’s social gatherings, and regularly visits the nearby town, excited by the least amount of interaction with the locals.
Dale Harriman’s Philippe is gradually succumbing to dementia and a shrapnel injury. He has difficulty choosing words, and is deeply suspicious of any new residents that share his birthday, in a ‘Highlander’ style conspiracy theory that there can be only one. He rallies in moments of clarity, unwilling to give up on their daring enterprise. Yavé Guzman directs the ensemble’s subtle, engaging interactions, and is responsible for the scenic design of painted flagstones, pleasant garden beds and an adorable Dalmatian dog statue.
Set in 1959, the casual conversation regarding sexual advances on women is uncomfortable in its content. The “boys will be boys” snickering attitude when discussing a maid who tried to fight back when grabbed from behind is not amusing, but is a stark reminder of the acceptance of harassment which was prevalent at the time. The uneasy reaction caused by lines like that is an encouraging sign of progress, but it does not make them any less difficult to overhear. Guzman believes that it “should not be taken lightly at all” and is an eye-opening experience for audience members to realize that the norm sixty years ago is no longer the case. “It’s not funny anymore,” he remarks, thinking of the #MeToo Movement.
Despite outdated notions of how to treat women, ‘Heroes’ is an opportunity for an outstanding cast to ruminate on what motivates us as human beings; where does the resolution to keep living come from? The idiosyncratic veterans are ourselves when we reach the years where our end is waiting at the garden gate. What will our choices be when it seems easier to give up and relax into familiar routines?
Presented by Cloverdale Performing Arts Center through August 19, 2018 Fri/Sat at 7:30pm, Sun at 2:00pm
Photos by John Gobeille