“The Real Thing” is a meaty play packed with clever dialogue, passion and complex themes.
Set in London, Tom Stoppard’s play follows a playwright whose livelihood starts crumble as the line blurs between his plays and his real life. Writers’ production of “The Real Thing” is as funny as it is poignant because of its crisp direction and first-rate performances by its leading cast members.
Directing Writers’ 20th season opener, Artistic Director Michael Halberstam gives “The Real Thing” an even flow and quick pace, perfect for the play’s witty banter. His direction of the play-within-a-play scenes are so delightfully confounding that theatergoers may not immediately know when characters are playing themselves or acting. While Stoppard’s often-dense text can be overwhelming, Halberstam, along with his expressive cast, does an excellent job articulating the play’s themes of love, art and reality.
Sean Fortunato as the play’s protagonist, Henry, and Carrie Coon as Henry’s second wife, Annie, are perfectly cast. Fortunato delivers monologues on writing and love with such gusto that he aptly speaks like a character from one of Henry’s own plays. Fortunato and Coon’s chemistry is palpable, and as Annie, Coon is a sultry goddess. One of her first lines in the play—“Touch me” she says to Henry—truly sets the mood for their relationship’s lustful beginning. Fortunato and Coon are just as good at keeping the heat as they are at playing it cool as the couple starts to fall apart under questions of infidelity in the play’s second act.
“The Real Thing” plays through November 20 at Writers’ Theatre. For ticket information, call 847-242-6001 or visit writerstheatre.org.