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July 23, 2013 > Theatre Review: Broadway West has the "The Real Thing"

Theatre Review: Broadway West has the "The Real Thing"

By Janet Grant, Photo by Dan Sparks

Love and marriage, honesty and fidelity; age-old themes and lofty virtues go the full round in Tom Stoppard's 1982 Tony Award winning play, "The Real Thing." Broadway West's production of this two act romantic comedy ably directed by Bryan Freedman, makes for a full night of witty repartee and solid entertainment.

Almost immediately, the audience is thrust into a world of "real" versus "imaginary" when in the first scene you peer into a household where an agitatedly witty Max (Drew Campbell) accuses his traveling wife Charlotte (Kristen Saunders) of adultery. Yet in the next scene all seems to be forgiven and Max and Charlotte are married to others. Huh? Here it seems Stoppard is teasing his audience when it becomes apparent that Max and Charlotte are actors and the first scene really depicts a play written by Charlotte's husband Henry (Keith C. Marshall).

The real intrigue of course comes with life imitating art when in reality Henry is having an affair with Max's wife, the passionate Annie (Sylvia Burboeck). The constantly changing scenery with the actors manipulating the furniture does little to help distinguish the real from the unreal.

Keith C. Marshall's portrayal of the arrogant, pompous and flawed Henry is masterful. His long-winded soliloquies are eloquent yet exhaustive, and his personality is snobbish yet endearing. What's not to love?

The spirited actress and activist Annie is delightfully portrayed by Sylvia Burboeck. She is what Henry is not - she cares. Henry's passion is words, Annie's is life. And yet, they love each other and it seems to work. Well, at least to a point.

Kristen Saunders and Drew Campbell as Charlotte and Max are really likable and play their parts well. Somehow they appear more real than their significant others, yet the cynical Charlotte has secrets of her own and Max, well he plays the fool all around.

The thorn in Henry's side and Annie's "project" is the moronic Brody (James Allen), a Scottish ex-soldier and thug who was imprisoned for starting a fire in a war memorial and slugged a policeman. He has become a hero to the left and worse, has written an illiterate teleplay, which Annie wants Henry to turn into something producible. Allen plays Brody as an egotistical and nasty ex-con with a sense of entitlement. His character was believable and real down to the Scottish brogue.

Rounding out the cast was Annie's young lover, the very likable Billy played energetically by Cody Young, and Debbie, Henry and Charlotte's free-spirited but cynical teenage daughter nicely portrayed by Melinda Marks.

"The Real Thing" is about love, honesty, fidelity, and the real beauty of the English language. If this is your cup of tea, go see Broadway West's production of this Tom Stoppard winner. After all, as Shakespeare said, "The play's the thing!" And in this case, it is the "real" thing!


The Real Thing
July 19 - Aug 17
8 p.m. (Sunday matinees at 1 p.m.)
Broadway West Theatre Company
4000-B Bay St., Fremont
(510) 683-9218
www.broadwaywest.org

Tickets: $10 - $25

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