THE REAL THING
by Tom Stoppard, directed by Diana Leblanc. Presented by Soulpepper (55 Mill). Until July 29. $18-$54. See Continuing, page 97. 416-866-8666. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Love's not a battlefield but a massive set of bargains and questions in Tom Stoppard 's comedy The Real Thing . Set among a group of actors and writers sometime in the recent past, the story charts a romance between tempestuous Annie ( Megan Follows ) and playwright Henry ( Albert Shultz ). Their affair takes many modifiers - adulterous, comfortable, complex - and takes shape through Stoppard's wicked humour and awesome sense of metaphor.
Soulpepper heavies Follows and Schultz deliver on great expectations. Schultz's performance as hopelessly single-minded romantic Henry anchors Follows's flighty Annie. Theirs is a polarizing love: he's a team player, she's an individualist; he longs for her devotion, she for his trust. Their chemistry infuses their every action.
Stoppard's favourite device, the play within a play, works here on the literary level by underlining the transience of attachment while setting up some meaty situations for the cast to play.
Guided by director Diana Leblanc , the cast delivers calm yet intense performances. Not even arch British accents spoil Kristina Nicoll 's wry turn as Charlotte, Henry's jilted wife, or C. David Johnson 's pathetic Max, Annie's former mister.
They all seem completely at ease with the material, and every one of them makes it look damn easy.
There's so much going on in this script and in these performances that it warrants a second viewing. The intermission lights come as a surprise and the final blackout as a disappointment: this is summer at Soulpepper at its best.