This Thing Called Love

Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing blurs the lines between lies and lust, art and life

Annie is a strangely optimistic and frightfully cold-hearted character, but Roza somehow sculpts her in such away that we don't dislike her, even though we believe we should. Early in the play, when she's urging Henry to leave his wife for her, she says matter-of-factly, "It's only a couple of marriages and a child." The alchemy of self-centeredness and passion that Roza conjures works well on stage and creates a strong bond with Henry, who is intellectually more than capable of winning his arguments with her yet continually succumbs to her strong will.

Henry is at once erudite and dorky, arrogant and endearing; Anthony brings just the right amounts of selfishness and sweetness to the role. He defends his craft with a passion: "Words are innocent, neutral, precise. You get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little." Yet he loves corny pop music from the '50s and '60s like "I'm into Something Good" by Herman's Hermits and "You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin'" by the Righteous Brothers.

Ultimately The Real Thing succeeds because Stoppard never strays from the conventions of theater -- set, dialogue, and action. Revelations are always cloaked in actions, reminding the audience that human relationships are more about what one does than what one says. The "real thing" is real only in the moment in which it occurs. Reality is fluid and always changing. Betrayal is as real as love. And yet, for as much as this work rejects society's preconceived mores, The Real Thing is no manifesto of moral relativism. These characters treat one another quite shabbily and must deal with the consequences of their actions yet continue to hold out hope that real love and real art are out there somewhere.

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