A success in Paris and London, Gérald Sibleyras’s 2003 comedy Le Vent des Peupliers, which translator Tom Stoppard has re-titled Heroes, concerns three eccentric World War I veterans in a convalescent home, hungry for one final sortie before joining the battalion in the sky. But Henri (John Cullum) is disabled, Gustave (Ron Holgate) is agoraphobic, and Philippe (Jonathan Hogan) suffers bouts of narcolepsy from the shrapnel in his skull. These motley geezers are bound to have trouble storming a tree-laden hill a few miles away, visible from their terrace, but they won’t let their handicaps crush their spirit.
It’s hard to imagine, after the upheavals of the 20th century—in playwriting alone—that the French would celebrate a show so mild, so bourgeois, so televisiony, and not even as funny as a rerun of The Golden Girls. Periodically, the specter of death interrupts the trio’s reveries about the nearby school full of nymphets, or Philippe’s delusion that a stone statue of a dog in the courtyard can move, bringing the gentle levity to a jarring halt. Eventually, Henri bails on the “adventure” (i.e., nothing happens). When asked why he went along at first, he explains, “I was just trying to relieve the boredom.” Next time, Henri, try harder.