Last fall, the Santa Paula Theater Center mounted a funny and moving production of Tom Stoppard’s translation/adaptation of Heroes by Gerald Sibleyras. Now, the Santa Paula production is moving south — lock, stock, cast and crew — to the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center for a special four-day run.


Tom Puckett, David Ralphe and Richard Winterstein star in Tom Stoppard’s Heroes at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center.

Directed by Eric Stein with sets by Mike Carnahan, costumes by Barbara Pedziwiatr, lighting by Gary Richardson, and starring Tom Puckett, David Ralphe and Richard Winterstein, Heroes plays this Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 28-29 and Jan. 31-Feb. 1, in the center’s intimate black box space The DownStage.

The French title of Heroes is Le Vent Des Peupliers. This means “The Wind in the Poplars.” Because that was too close for comfort to “The Wind in the Willows,” the English producers urged Stoppard to come up with a different title for his adaptation.

The play is set in 1959, in a home for veterans of World War I. The three main characters are all veterans, and “to tell you the truth,” Stoppard observed, after the play had opened, “if Charles Wood hadn’t written a play called Veterans [in 1972], we would have called it that.” So, he called it Heroes — almost certainly intending irony.

While the characters have a certain eccentric dignity, and are not cowards, they are more enduring than heroic; and anyway, Heroes is a comedy not a tragedy, and the “heroes” of comedy tend to be mock-heroes at best.

Like Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov, Stoppard is a master of English prose who was born speaking something else. Novelists Conrad and Nabokov might have envied Stoppard’s success as a playwright, since they both gave it a shot. (Nabokov’s The Walz Invention is an amusing read that would not, I think, play very well.) Playwright Stoppard’s one novel, Lord Malquist and Mr. Moon (1966) was — and is — too esoteric, not to say ironic, to gain any traction on the bestseller lists.

In a way, though, Stoppard’s achievement is more impressive, since it depends on his ability to catch and reproduce to perfection the incredibly intricate nuances of spoken English.

Sibleyras’ characters are mere outlines — even their war experiences don’t seem to have had a shaping influence — but Stoppard puts dialogue in their mouths that keeps us paying attention and laughing at all the right places.

Heroes plays at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and at 2 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $20 for general admission; $18 for seniors, students and military; and $15 for children. For reservations, call the SVCAC box office at 805.583.7900, or purchase online by clicking here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at The opinions expressed are his own.