"Heroes" by Gerald Sibleyras tells the story of old soldiers that have never quite recovered from WWI. First Presbyterian Theatre puts on the production this month.
In August 1959, the cantankerous Henri, Gustave and Philippe plot their escape from a French home for retired military men. The local production, directed by John O'Connell, stars Thom Hofrichter, Bob Haluska and Daniel Bulau.
Haluska answered a few questions via email. The responses have been edited.
Q. How have you prepared for this role beyond memorizing lines? Did you have to do any research on France or the war?
A. We were not asked to do research on France or the war, however, I have been a student of World War I for at least 30 years, which has led to my deep commitment to this production, too deep perhaps. My director has had to remind me (several times) that we are not in the trenches but on a terrace and our battles, while intense, are not the desperate mayhem of the Great War, and a heck of a lot funnier.
Q. How do you think this play relates to current times?
A. France found a way to take care of their veteran soldiers, even if it meant taking them in at a young age, a fact that inspired the author to write the play. Given the plight of many of our veterans today, it makes one wonder that perhaps there is a better way.
On a personal level, my fondest memories of visiting my mom in upstate New York were "hanging out" with her and her friends on the terrace of her assisted living home.
Q. Is there anything you want the audience to walk away thinking about?
A. Given that World War I was an exercise of mass insanity, perhaps it can be viewed as a cautionary tale.
Q. What is the last thing you do before you go on stage?
A. I look in the offstage mirror and tell myself I am the character I am playing.
Q. Do you know what you will be working on next after "Heroes"?
A. No plans for the stage but you never know. Last fall I had no intention of even attending Civic Theatre's "Rocky Horror Picture Show" and I ended up onstage as the Narrator having the time of my life!