The Real Thing Tells a Timeless Tale: Arts Club Theatre Company

By MICHAEL C. GUINNESS

Some theatre is not capable of withstanding the test of time; this type of theatre tells a story that fails to cross generational boundaries, leaving the audience tired of the same old story cloaked in obsolescence.

The Real Thing

This, however, is not the case with Tom Stoppard’s notable play The Real Thing, which opened at Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island stage on Friday, March 6. Stoppard’s work tells the story of a playwright who toils with issues of love and fidelity in his own life while writing about them in a way that diverges from his own reality.

Tom Stoppard, best known in mainstream circles for co-writing “Shakespeare in Love,” a film that won the Academy Award for best picture in 1999, has a wonderful way of finding the humor in everyday circumstance while addressing the seriousness of the problems many of us face in our own lives.

Having worked in the San Francisco theatre world for many years, I’m quite familiar with Stoppard’s work and I was extremely excited to see this production come to life, especially since I have seen very few theatre productions since leaving that world behind five years ago.

Entering the theatre on Friday night I was introduced to the prestigious history enjoyed by the Arts Club through the years. With pictures mounted around the lobby and up the staircase displaying the early careers of such notable actors as Eric McCormack and Michael J. Fox, it’s very hard not to be impressed.

When the lights came up on the stage I gathered my wits about me, preparing myself for what I expected to be a brilliant, fast-paced exchange of intellectual humor delivered with gusto; I was not disappointed. As the show progressed towards the second act I felt a slight slow-down in the pacing, which was immediately picked up by Henry (the protagonist played by Vincent Gale), a dynamic character created in the image of Stoppard himself as a playwright struggling with the idea of living out his own plot lines.

Henry writes about lovers who toil with the fear of infidelity, an issue to which he finds himself morally superior. However, when he leaves his wife and daughter, played by Jennifer Clement and Julie McIsaac respectively, to begin a life with his lover Annie, played by Jennifer Lines, the doors of jealousy begin to open and he is introduced to his own fears of infidelity manifested through his interactions with Annie’s fellow actor, played by Charlie Gallant.

Gale’s portrayal of Henry. with such a passionate opinion of love was the highlight of the show, especially during the moments in which he would slow down the pacing to give the audience a chance to understand his character’s motivation. By the end of the show I was heavily involved in the emotional connection shared between Henry and Annie. These two characters carried the story to a crucial climax which allowed the audience to reflect on both the concept of love and its true meaning.

For my first Arts Club production I don’t think I could have asked for much more. The connection I felt to each of the characters was unlike any I’d experienced for quite some time, a sentiment that left me eagerly awaiting my next visit to the Arts Club Theatre.

The Real Thing runs until April 4th, 2009 at the Arts Club Theatre on Granville Island.

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