Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Real Thing

Many people consider The Real Thing to be Tom Stoppard's most accessible play, and I suppose that's true--but at what cost? Instead of Stoppard's usual verbal and mental fireworks, and frequently big heart, we get a bunch of whiny, unlikable people who couple and uncouple and talk and talk and talk. The biggest talker bears more than a passing resemblance to Stoppard himself: playwright, discerning, exact, witty, etc. However, Stoppard is no kinder to his stand-in than he is to the other characters. All of them are painfully self-involved and deeply annoying. It might be more possible to sympathize/empathize with these people if we saw more of their good sides (assuming they have them), or even if their bad sides were more interesting (see George and Martha, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf).

The current Roundable production--directed by Sam Gold and starring Ewan MacGregor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Josh Hamilton, and Cynthia Nixon--does the show no favors. The performances range from competent to wooden, and none of the four manages to truly inhabit his/her character. (Then again, why would any of them want to?) The last production, with Jennifer Ehle and Stephen Dillane, was better, but the play still came across as thin. Eloquent, of course, but thin.

I will match my love of Stoppard's work (see reviews here and here) to anyone's, but the popularity of The Real Thing  baffles me.

(full-priced ticket; last row balcony)

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