Review by: Beverly Horton
I expected to have a “laugh-out-loud,“ “please stop; you’re-killing-me” experience of Heroery.
The title of the play, the word “heroery,” mangles then awkwardly falls off the tongue. (Rolling or tripping off the tongue is the preferably “word movement” for titles in “serious” literature. So, because Heroery is a comedy, the awkwardness of its title bode well for the play). Secondly, Heroery is described as a “hilarious mock-Renaissance theatre adventure.” So, I expected clever, carnivalesque inversions, horizontal twists on literary conventions, allusions to literary “classics,” and comedic representations of English days of yore in the mode of Monty Python and the Holy Grail or Roland Atkinson’s Black Adder.
I expected to see these elements present in the play itself AND in the acting. Heroery met these expectations…for the most part.
On the level of the script, Heroery met all the criteria above. Writer/director Steve Stockwell provides all the narrative space, shape, and character types for the actors to work with. He creates Stevetuar, the hero; M’Lady Stokellberry, the damsel in distress; Denperratis and Mistress Dill, their respective sidekicks; and Oscarthgus, the villainous wouldbe king. Stockwell’s use of rhyming couples and engagement of clever wordplay frequently nods to the structure and content of Shakespearean works. In the tradition of classical farce, the hero is not heroic enough; the damsel not distressed enough, the servants not servile enough, and the villain not villainous enough. An incredible plot twist provides an entirely unexpected and masterful conclusion to the play!
In my estimation, only two of the actors ably-occupied the space Stockwell provides them. In his role as Stevetaur, Jonathan Calhoun utilizes exaggeratedly-broad speech and huge gestures for his hysterical portrayal of an absurd, quixotic hero. Several times I laughed in response to one of Calhoun’s mockingly-heroic poses. Ryan Collins, sidekick Denperratis, was equally funny. Collins delivers his lines in a manner worthy of a Stratford audition and occasionally breaks the fourth wall in order to confirm for the audience that Stevetaur is as undeserving and idiotic a hero as we think he is.
Sarah Stanton offered a few funny moments as Mistress Dill, but it was Calhoun’s and Collins’ animation of Stockwell’s script that saved the show for me.
I didn’t get the “laugh-out-loud,“ “please stop; you’re- killing-me” experience I expected, but I did enjoy Heroery.