Tom Stoppard’s play The Real Thing is a profound look at relationships. The play is centered on the lives of two married couples, all of which work in theater. Circumstances shift when Annie and Henry fall madly in love and decide to leave their marriages and move in together. Euphoria doesn’t last forever. Henry has to learn the hard lesson that marriage means compromise and that if he continues to idealize his darling wife Annie he may lose her. Stoppard’s words are poetry and his magnificently structured play is filled with twists and turns that kept me engaged throughout.
The Real Thing, certainly a challenging undertaking, proved to be a good choice on the part of Riley Productions who recently produced the play in North Hollywood, California at Two Roads Theater. The play is ideal for a strong ensemble of actors and this ensemble tackled and conquered.
Michael Robb and Cindy Marinangel, as Henry and Annie, carry the play and keep it moving forward. Marinangel’s stunning presence on stage often makes it difficult to watch anyone else. Her performance is layered with vulnerability and real gusto. Robb handles Stoppard’s words with great care and craft. He aptly undertakes Henry’s breakthroughs and is well cast as the romantic writer who discovers a deeper kind of love. Fox Carney is perfectly sympathetic and exposed as Annie’s former husband Max. Susan Silvestri is witty, worldly, and sexy as Henry’s former wife Charlotte. Jared Boghosian is fittingly charming and adorable as Annie’s (very) young scene partner. Anna Laura Singleton as Henry and Charlotte’s daughter Debbie is wise beyond her years and the perfect voice of reason for her confused father. Singleton brings a fine balance of spunk and charisma to the role. Brandon Irons is ruthless and brutish as Brodie, accomplishing exactly what he has set out to do.
Set design by Diana Martin and Larry White is aesthetically pleasing, but a bit too
complex for the black box venue. The seen changes go on too long and slow down the pacing of the play. Direction by Linda Alznauer is serviceable. She works well with her tight-knit ensemble, but does not quite reach the depth of this incredibly nuanced play.
However, the production is worthwhile and seemed to be well received. I was glad to see a full house pile in closing weekend. Kudos to all involved!
The Real Thing: Two Roads Theatre, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City. The run was February 1st till March 9th.