The Real Thing: Truth Hurts
Tom Stoppard is the preëminent man of the stage when it comes to philosophical comedy. His The Real Thing, a reflection on honesty and integrity, won a slew of well-deserved Tony Awards at its first Broadway production in 1984, as well as for the 2000 Broadway revival. Now T. Schreiber Studio delivers a wonderful production, as part of their 40th Anniversary Season.
The play deals with the relationship between playwright Henry (Jason Tomarken) and actress Annie (Meghan Jones), as well as their previous spouses, actors Charlotte (Aimee Jolson) and Max (Brian Drillinger), Annie's current lover Billy (Harmon Walsh), Henry and Charlotte's daughter Debbie (Maura McNamara), and the incarcerated Brodie (Ryan Michael Jones), who Annie met on a train just before the act of protest vandalism that sent him to jail. Stoppard cleverly reveals layer after layer of the "truth" about the characters' relationships and jealousies, with a large amount of philosophy about fidelity. Most playwrights eventually write plays about playwrights, but Stoppard makes what could have been a tedious exercise into art.
The actors, under the direction of Terry Schreiber himself, are all excellent at handling the necessary verbal acrobatics (though their UK accents occasionally slide around the map). Tomarken is especially adroit and is very moving and effective in his role. Jones is a delight as Annie, handling the complexities of her character nicely. Drillinger is amusing as Max, and Jolson piles on the smoldering sexpot with a trowel, while never seeming artificial. Walsh plays the vapid pretty-boy to the hilt. McNamara is glorious in her one pivotal scene- I wished she'd had more to do. Jones is perfectly boorish as Brodie.
Schreiber's direction is excellent- never a moment wasted. The play is a bit long though (nearly three hours), and might have benefitted from quicker scene changes or beats. Though if that's the worst one can say about a show, then that's not a terrible thing.
I've seen a lot of George Allison's beautiful scenic design at T. Schreiber in the past, and here he continues his standard of excellence, crafting a modern 1980s opulence for the play. Chris Rummel's sound design impressively switches back and forth from house music to onstage sources.
Fantastic work across the board. Go and see it!
The Real Thing
By Tom Stoppard
T. Schreiber Studio
Gloria Maddox Theater
151 West 26th Street, 7th Floor (Between 6th and 7th Aves.)
February 19th to March 29th,
Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
The suggested donation is $25, $20 Seniors and Students.
Available online through TheaterMania.com or by phone at 212-352-3101.