Entertainment Weekly


Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content


The Real Thing

Posted on

THE REAL THING Maggie Gyllenhaal and Ewan McGregor
Joan Marcus

The Real Thing

Current Status:
In Season
Stephen Dillane
David Leveaux
Tom Stoppard

We gave it a B+

Tom Stoppard is justly renowned for his erudition and wit, but in his 1980s drama The Real Thing he also found a (philandering) heartbeat beneath all the allusions to Strindberg, Wilde, Coward, and Herman’s Hermits. The hero is a Stoppard-like playwright named Henry (Ewan McGregor), who drops one actress wife (Cynthia Nixon) for another (Maggie Gyllenhaal) as he searches for ever-elusive authenticity at home and at work. Henry’s snobbishly high standards are continually thwarted—by writer’s block, by the need to take dumb TV-script assignments, by his new wife’s infidelity, and even by his own (mostly closeted) populist tastes.

McGregor is confident and sexy, using badinage as a bandage over wounds he’d rather not examine too closely. Nixon (who played Henry’s teenage daughter in the Tony-winning 1984 Broadway production with Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close) is a worthy foil, wearing dowdy dresses and a look of wry resignation. Gyllenhaal, a pixie-cut dream girl, has a chillier but still effective presence. But director Sam Gold’s fussy production blurs the distinction between scenes with a single drab set and cast-sung interludes of ’60s pop. Not only is it harder to follow the tricky plot (and its plays-within-plays), but the songs suggest a kumbaya solidarity among the characters that undercuts the show’s message about the challenges of forging connections. B+

(Tickets: Roundabouttheatre.org)