Photo by Don Kellogg

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Real Thing

Tom Stoppard is certainly on a roll.  He, like his compadre Terrence McNally, has two plays running concurrently, in this case, both at the Roundabout Theatre Company.  His latest installment at American Airlines Theatre, on Broadway, is The Real Thing.

This one is heady.  Make no mistake.  Mr. Stoppard is a linguist and writes very, very smart dialogue.  In my brief reading before the show I discovered that this particular show may be a bit autobiographical too.

Henry (Ewan McGregor) an erudite playwright (some might call a snob although his wife uses another similar British slang word), as is Mr. Stoppard.  This play is quite the intellectual study of love, marriage, commitment, and relationships.  He's first married to Charlotte (Cynthia Nixon), but quickly changes gears and falls in love and marries Annie (Maggie Gyllenhaal).  Josh Hamilton plays Max, an actor and first husband of Annie. A tangled web indeed.

We get tangled up in Henry's relationship, views on commitment and love and how those may differ from both Charlotte (his first wife) and Annie (his second wife).  What is jealousy?  Does one person's commitment equate to how the other person sees it?   Can we really just love one person in life?  These and dozens of other lofty questions are batted around during the play - which by the way features the "play within a play" format at the opening with quite a satisfying effect.

I'm pretty sure Mr. Stoppard didn't originally write in the music to the original script and likely (although I can''t really be sure) it was the creation of the brilliant director, Sam Gold.   I understand there may be some additional gimmicks with the music, the cast, and a digital display in the theatre.  There's always a gimmick these days.

Smart, heady, intelligent - this play aims high and delivers on it's promises with a remarkably competent and dazzling cast along with the choices of music both during the show and between the scene change breaks.

An interesting trivia note, Ms Nixon was featured in the original production when she was a mere teenager (as the daughter) and now returns triumphantly as her mother.  The small world of theatre just got even more so.