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Performing Arts

Ghostlight's 'The Real Thing' has all the right stuff: sound script, great acting and confident directing

None March 18th, 2010

The Real Thing
8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, through March 27,
8 p.m. Thursday, March 25
Ghostlight Theatre Club
3110 N. Walker
$15 adults, $10 students

Attention, city theater lovers: Here's a rare opportunity to see two of our finest actors onstage together, albeit briefly, in a play worthy of their talents, as Ben Hall and Mark Loftis duke it out in Ghostlight Theatre Club's engaging production of Tom Stoppard's "The Real Thing." It's not exactly a fair fight, but Hall and Loftis go at it with their usual gusto.

Hall plays Henry, a hack playwright. It's not beneath Henry's dignity to write a sci-fi screenplay, if he needs some money, but he knows the importance of words and language, and loathes their misuse. He doesn't mind being called a literary snob.

In a world rife with pretentiousness, Henry knows the importance of recognizing the real thing, be it in politics, literature, love or any other area of humor endeavor or emotion.

He's an interesting character who wallows in pop culture, preferring The Righteous Brothers and Herman's Hermits to when he was "taken once to Covent Garden to hear a woman called Callas in a sort of foreign musical with no dancing."

But Henry's eschewing of high culture seems disingenuous, and Max accuses him of "sheer pretension."

Actually, Stoppard is building layers of complexity in Henry's character.

Loftis plays Max, an actor who is cuckolded and disappears fairly early in the play. After his exit, "The Real Thing" focuses on Henry and his second wife, Annie (the fine Emily Etherton), an actress who appeared in one of Henry's plays with Max.

To me, the story of Henry and Annie is the crux of the play, but "The Real Thing" also involves a couple of love triangles, which undoubtedly are important to Stoppard. One involves Charlotte (Paula Kim Sullivan), Henry's ex-wife and mother of their daughter, the Goth-but-sweet Debbie (Holly McNatt). In the other, Annie becomes mixed up with a young actor, Billy (Kelly Claunch). In a subplot, Annie is absorbed in the case of Brodie (Patton Graves), a cause c
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