Presented by Bad Habit Productions
By Tom Stoppard
Directed by A. Nora Long
Review by Kitty Drexel
(Boston) The Real Thing reminds us that mature, adult relationships are back breaking, hard work. Henry (Bob Mussett) is a playwright using his real life as fodder for his scripts. He’s having an affair with Annie (Courtland Jones), an actress and activist, for whom they’ve both divorced their spouses. In this play, Henry and Annie grow out of their patterns of selfish, abusive neglect and into a mature partnership. Henry and Annie barely survive with their sanity intact.
Anyone who has ever been in an adult romantic relationship can tell you that the successful ones are fraught with daily annoyances. The promise you make to each other is one of persistent respect and love which means constantly working to earn the respect and love of your partner. While this is a privilege of partnership, you do frequently want to ‘kill each other.’ Not really but yes. Mostly not. But yes, sometimes it feels that way. Letting them live is an indication of mutual commitment.
Director, A. Nora Long, captures the stark frustrations adults growing out of their childish lust phase. Without the proper staging, this play could be as boring as watching white paint dry on a white wall. Fortunately, Long’s staged the script with the characters’ growth in mind. The characters discuss the abstraction of playwriting within the context of familial, romantic and adversarial interactions. We’re hearing their philosophical words but are seeing their relationships develop physically through every day action. Almost every couples therapist can confirm that love is action, not words. Long puts this truth on the stage.
The cast is excellent. They work very well together, their ensemble is air tight. Bob Mussett as Henry takes the cake. He has made Henry into a British Woody Allen with better posture and no pedophilia. He has the same intelligence, dry wit, and ill fitting pants. He can say absolutely nothing in 500 words or more and is incapable of securing his own happiness. Mussett’s Henry is charming even as we roll our eyes at his snobbery.
The Real Thing is very good. Although the show is about terrible people convincing themselves of their innate goodness by attempting to feel deep emotion, there is nothing insincere about the performances delivered by cast and crew. The scene transitions are seamless (except for the end of Act 1, we didn’t know it was intermission) and the accents solid. It’s like an episode of Seinfeld set in the UK. Nothing happens but we still care quite deeply about the characters.