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Peter Froelich, John Koensgen and Paul Rainville in "Heroes".  Photo by Steve Boyton of Paul Toogood Photography.
Peter Froelich, John Koensgen and Paul Rainville in "Heroes". Photo by Steve Boyton of Paul Toogood Photography.

Theatre Review: "Heroes" at the Great Canadian Theatre Company

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Heroes is running at GCTC in Ottawa through June 27. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at the opening night and has our review.

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Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

HEROES by Gerald Sibleyras and translated by Tom Stoppard is closing out the season at GCTC.  Set in a veteran's home in 1950s France, the play features three aging WWI veterans who together plan to escape from their terrace to a distant stand of poplars.  That's about it, as HEROES is definitely character driven as opposed to plot.  As a friend said after seeing it in New York, "There's not a lot of play there, but it's great to see three terrific actors doing their stuff."  The same applies to this production.

In this case the three terrific actors are Peter Froelich as Henri with his cane and bad leg, John Koensgen as the agoraphobic Gustave, and the inimitable Paul Rainville as Philippe, who periodically and unexpectedly passes out.  A fourth non-speaking character is the stone dog who keeps them company on their terrace.  By the way, be sure to check the program for the bios of the dog and his understudy.

Stoppard's translation is both witty and touching.  Henri, who seems to have the strongest grip on reality, says, "Nothing ever changes except one day no more three crusaders - only two."  Philippe's calisthenics are a hoot.  As he says, "I like to make the most of my periods of lucidity," while Gustave carefully positions the dog so he can hear their conversations.  One of the most entertaining scenes is their argument about whether or not to take the dog with them.

Brian Smith's stone terrace set is simple and elegant, with three impressionistic trees on the upstage backdrop behind the terrace wall.  Rebecca Miller's subtle lighting on the backdrop is especially effective.  The original music by Cathy Nosaty is appropriately evocative, as is her subtle use of the sounds of flying geese.

Artistic Director Lise Ann Johnson has done a fine job of directing and staging HEROES.  She couldn't have a better cast and lets the three actors play to their strengths.  We come to know these men and their relationships.

At eighty minutes with no intermission, HEROES flies by.  For me it was a rare opportunity to see three of my favorite Canadian actors together.  But also, as my companion said, "I didn't know it would be so funny!"  Neither did I.

As for rating, I'm going to break a precedent.  On a scale of one to five the script of HEROES gets four, while the GCTC production of HEROES gets five, for a total of four and a half solar panels.  For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng. 

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