“I don’t think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a …
This item is available in full to subscribers.
If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.
Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.
If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.
“I don’t think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve
respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can
nudge the world a little,” says Henry in a wonderfully-written
It’s Brit playwright Henry talking in “The Real Thing” by A -
list Brit playwright Tom Stoppard. He is rewriting a clumsy play by
Brodie, a political activist his lover Annie is backing.
“Words don’t deserve that kind of malarky. They’re innocent,
neutral, standing for them you can build bridges across
incomprehension and chaos. But if they get their corners knocked
off, they’re no good anymore and Brodie knocks their corners
Sometimes one has the pleasure of watching a play with such a
delicious flow of words that one would be most happy to hear it all
again — right now. Especially when those words are delivered by
really accomplished actors. The entire cast, ably directed by Wendy
Franz, is polished and engaging. Sam Gregory plays center-front as
Henry, an accomplished British playwright who journeys from
self-important and unkind to truly being able to love another
person (the real thing), as the play proceeds through several years
in the characters’ lives.
High-brow Henry is fond of ’80s pop music, rather than the
classical fare that one might expect due to his intellect. It’s a
topic that keeps coming up as Desert Island Discs Radio, with DJ
Jared Holbrook (a company member) plays on a small table: Herman’s
Hermits, the Monkees, Procul Harum, etc.
Director Wendy Franz designed the sound and paid careful
attention to details throughout this play, which she describes in
her director’s notes as “a play about love and its imposters: Lust,
infatuation, familiar comfort, need…”
Lights go up on a living room scene where a surly Max (Warren
Sherrill) berates Charlotte (Emily Paton Davies), who has just
returned from a supposed trip to Switzerland. “You forgot your
passport,” he mutters, meaning he has been rummaging through her
things… A look at the synopsis of scenes tells us this is a theater
in London, play within a play, an age-old technique of playwrights.
The following seven scenes switch between theater, rehearsal room
and apartments belonging to Henry and Charlotte, Max and Annie
(Barbara Andrews) and later Henry and Annie — and Charlotte alone
and introducing Henry and Charlotte’s sassy daughter Debbie Chloe
Actual conversations relate to the opening theater make-believe
scene, all couched in Stoppard’s carefully crafted language. It’s a
bit of a challenge to keep track of who’s saying what and where —
an intentional challenge from Sir Tom Stoppard, one assumes.
At times, it was difficult to hear the actors clearly, which is
unfortunate because the audience must really pay attention.
A young actor named Billie (Brandon Kruhm) plays onstage with
Annie and takes her fancy for awhile and we eventually meet the
loutish young Scotchman, Brodie (Jack Wefso), recently released
from prison and not pleased with Henry’s rewrite of his play.
Throughout the production, the pop music Henry loves is woven in
to underline how he’s feeling. Stoppard specifies it in his
This Tony Award winning play from 1982 is fresh and engaging.
Paragon has knocked it out of the park once again.
If you go:
“The Real Thing” by Tom Stoppard, starring Sam Gregory, plays
through August 14 at Paragon’s new location, 1387 S. Santa Fe Dr.,
Denver Performances: 7:30 Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays; 2 p.m.
Sundays. 303-300-2210, paragontheatre.com.
Other items that may interest you
We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.