The Real Thing | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Real Thing 

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THE REAL THING, Court Theatre. This 1982 play about adultery among British literati is typical Tom Stoppard fare: dry, witty, mildly sexy, a bit dull, and way too pleased with its own cleverness. In a word, it's the perfect play for Court Theatre's audience of Hyde Park academics and U. of C. wannabes.

Director Gary Griffin gives them just what they want. His production emphasizes all that Anglophiles love about the British--their dignity, their stoicism, their understatement. And his cast would fit right in at a faculty-student mixer: all the men look like tenured professors, eager junior faculty, or callow undergraduates, and all the women look like kittenish coeds, sexy faculty, or well-preserved faculty wives. From the play's first moments Griffin's technically skilled cast of Equity and non-Equity actors delivers Stoppard's brittle lines with just the right emotional restraint. Marriages crumble, friends sleep with friends' wives, but everyone maintains a cool demeanor punctured only by the occasional quip.

Which is Stoppard's point, I think. But I can't help feeling that even he would find this admittedly entertaining production a bit dutiful. Edmund Davys in particular is so wrapped up in being the perfect witty Stoppard lead that he can't let loose when the story calls for him to break down. The tears he sheds when he discovers his wife's affair with a young, vulgar, sexy political prisoner are too few and too controlled to be truly moving.

--Jack Helbig

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