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Roundabout Theatre Company Revives Stoppard's "The Real Thing" at the American Airlines Theatre
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Roundabout Theatre Company Revives Stoppard's "The Real Thing" at the American Airlines Theatre

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Roundabout Theatre Company
Todd Haimes, Artistic Director
Harold Wolpert, Managing Director
Julia C. Levy, Executive Director
Sydney Beers, General Manager

Presents:
Ewan McGregor, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Cynthia Nixon, Josh Hamilton
in
The Real Thing
(The Real Thing Website)

By Tom Stoppard
Directed by Sam Gold

With: Alex Breaux, Ronan Raftery, Madeline Weinstein

At the
American Airlines Theatre
227 West 47th Street
NY, NY
212.719.1300

Set Design: David Zinn
Costume Design: Kaye Voyce
Lighting Design: Mark Barton
Sound Design: Bray Poor
Hair Design: Tom Watson
Dialect Coach: Kate Wilson
Production Stage Manager: Charles Means
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Casting: Jim Carnahan, CSA, Carrie Gardner, CSA
“The Real Thing” General Manager: Denise Cooper
Press: Polk & Co.
Director of Marketing & Audience Dvpt.: Tom O’Connor
Director of Development: Lynne Guggenheim Gregory
Founding Director: Gene Feist
Adams Assoc. Artistic Director: Scott Ellis

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 5, 2014


The current production of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing is flat as paper, opaque as sand. Bringing film and television stars to the big stage, in roles meant for experienced theatrics that are not subject to multiple takes or edits, demeans and lessens the production. This play would be best served on a small stage with actors that project and grip, in real time. There are no close-ups in theater, other than through opera glasses. Neither Cynthia Nixon (a movie star), who appeared in the 1983 production of this 1982 play, and who was also wonderful in Wit, nor Maggie Gyllenhaal (in her Broadway debut), a movie star, nor Ewan McGregor (another Broadway debut), known for London theater and films, nor Josh Hamilton (with one or two Broadway shows under his belt, but many films and small theatre plays) could project any emotionality or chemistry with a stage spouse, lover, or tonight’s live audience.

There are plays within plays, but here there’s another interior level of relationships, masking and diminishing those that were actually “the real thing”. The audience is left dumbfounded and frustrated (some left early), as British accents, some not authentically accentuated, added further distance through mumbled dialogue. The two acts unfold with deliberate confusion, and on this expansive stage, at the American Airlines Theatre, language is elusive. Charlotte’s (Nixon) husband, Henry (McGregor) has written a play, in which Max (Hamilton) plays Charlotte’s husband, but that’s not clear for at least a half hour, as Charlotte and Max rehearse, as the play opens. Infidelity is the focus of the interior play, as Charlotte’s travel excuse is a ruse, with her passport left behind, to be discovered by a suspicious Max. That interior play had potential, and the audience was engaged. When Charlotte is now on the set with real husband, Henry, and Max (Henry’s friend) later arrives with real wife, Annie (Gyllenhaal), the fog sets in. Affect and gestures remained undifferentiated.

The acting lacks energy and, to be honest, even a pulse. It’s like a television talk show, breezy banter all around. More unnerving, between scenic changes, the other three actors (Ronan Raftery, Madeline Weinstein, Alex Breaux) are joined by the four leads in serenading the audience with upbeat, early 80’s pop tunes. In Act II, Ms. Weinstein is Charlotte and Henry’s daughter, Debbie, an 80’s teen in the thralls of self-expression, who sees monogamous marriage as a trap, and espouses on this. Mr. Raftery, as well, takes on a role, as Annie’s young lover in a play that Henry wrote for her, and is also Annie’s lover in reality. Mr. Breaux takes on the final role as a released prisoner, Brodie, that Annie was instrumental in releasing, before she discovers he’s not her cup of tea, British as they are. And so on. Again, with a seasoned stage cast, or in intimate theater, preferably in the round, Stoppard’s play could be mesmerizing. Here, it was mindboggling. David Zinn’s early 80’s teak furniture and Kaye Voyce’s costumes are as bland as the dialogue.





For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net