The Real Thing – really?

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NY Theater Review Sandi Durell

 

Tom Stoppard is one of our most intellectual playwrights. He teases the mind with words. This revival of the 1982 Tony winning ‘The Real Thing,’ at the Roundabout Theater’s American Airlines Theatre, brings debuts to the Broadway stage for film stars Ewan McGregor and Maggie Gyllenhaal in this play about love and marriage fidelity.

McGregor plays Henry, a cerebral erudite playwright, who dissects thoughts and words with a vengeance. He is well cast and gives a glib confident performance as the snobbish writer. He is married to Charlotte (Cynthia Nixon), an actress who has learned to play the game with her own stings and zingers. Their friends Max (a high pitched whiney Josh Hamilton) and his wife Annie (a cool, urbane Gyllenhaal) are also actors. Annie and Henry are having an affair that breaks the bonds of marriage fidelity, albeit Charlotte, too, has been having her little flings.

They all banter love, politics, religion and right and wrong within a rectangular drab box of scenery (designed by David Zinn) filled with stacks of books and records, in this play within a play, punctuated by singing scene changing interludes where the cast perform doo-wop songs of Henry’s musical tastes. What?

Sam Gold (The Realistic Joneses, Fun Home) attempts to work his directorial wonders but is estopped by the sheer battle of Stoppard’s words, words, words that are both admirable and off-putting.

But, rest assured, you will enjoy hearing “I’ll Be in Trouble” along with “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” “Candy Girl” and “Be My Baby” to keep you involved. I guess the bottom line is summed up in Max’ quip to Henry “You may have all the words, but having all the words is not what life’s about.” There’s nothing real about ‘The Real Thing.’

(additional cast members: Ronan Raftery, Madeline Weinstein, Alex Breaux)

American Airlines Theater, 227 West 42nd Street, Manhattan, 212-719-1300, www.roundabouttheatre.org   thru Jan. 4. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

*Photos Joan Marcus

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