Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing examines the dichotomy between words vs. actions. This playwright with his love for words and his wit focuses the play on Henry, a playwright with the same attributes. Henry lives at a certain remove from the other people in his life. Words are both his armor and his weapon, and when he uses them as the latter he wields them as a sword.
Ewan McGregor as Henry leads a stellar cast with Cynthia Nixon, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Josh Hamilton as the main three people in Henry’s orbit. McGregor, Nixon and Hamilton inhabit roles of theater people, and throughout the play the lines of the “real” world and the ones lived on stage are often blurred. My only “quibble” with this production is that I felt the all-important heat between Henry and Gyllenhaal’s Annie wasn’t as strong as their relationship with some other characters. But it was still believable when Henry’s imperviousness is finally shattered by Annie’s words and actions. It was very powerful to watch him crumble.
This revival adds a lovely touch as the actors sing popular songs from the 1960s during scene changes. This fits in with one of the play’s themes of Henry’s love of pop music and his lack of knowledge of some more “high-brow” musicians. The songs were either silly or poignant and flowed with the action on stage. The tagline for The Real Thing is “It’s about the moment you stop thinking and start feeling.” This production makes you do both. AFW
American Airlines Theater 227 West 42 St
Runs through January 4 2015
Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes 1 intermission