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The Real Thing: A Comedy in Two Acts
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The Real Thing: A Comedy in Two Acts

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  2,662 ratings  ·  102 reviews
The play begins with Max and Charlotte, a couple whose marriage seems about to rupture. But nothing one sees on a stage is the real thing, and some things are less real than others. Charlotte is an actress who has been appearing in a play about marriage by her husband, Henry. Max, her leading man, is also married to an actress, Annie. Both marriages are at the point of rup ...more
Paperback, 118 pages
Published January 28th 1984 by Samuel French (first published 1982)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Rachel C.
In a word: spectacular.

Stoppard uses the play-within-a-play structure to mess around with ideas of reality, honesty, fidelity and love. Characters include a playwright (Henry) and two actresses (Charlotte and Annie). Henry is married to first one, then the other: "To marry one actress is unfortunate, to marry two is simply asking for it."

Stoppard puts his gift for verbal gymnastics into Henry's mouth and we watch Henry struggle (eloquently) to articulate how he feels about the women in his life,
...more
Trevor
I think this play has one of the best lines about enduring love and enduring through love. Even though the characters and incredibly flawed, I appreciated their vulnerability and desire to stay together despite the fact that their relationship was getting difficult. Stoppard does a great job portraying two characters who don't want to stay together because of a buildup of tension and yet who still feel compelled to remain. It's not a simplistic portrayal either. The two characters are not so dev ...more
Tony
Stoppard, Tom. THE REAL THING. (1984). *****. Written with Stoppard’s patented wit, this play focuses on love – at first with comic wit, then with mordant wit. His characters are all actors, theater artists, or writers; the kinds of people who excel at clever and stylish deception. The play is built on layer after layer of appearances that seem to be truth, but turn out to be deception, or, maybe, different forms of truth. In the opening act, we meet Max and Charlotte, a married couple. Max is i ...more
Leigh
There's a reason that this play is one of my all-time favorites from Stoppard, and this is it:

Words don’t deserve that kind of malarkey. They’re innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incomprehension and chaos. But when they get their corners knocked off, they’re no good any more.... I don’t think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order,
...more
Leslie
Feb 27, 2014 Leslie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Leslie by: Andy
Shelves: plays
Very enjoyable play about love (when is it "the real thing"?). The play centers around Henry (a playwright) and Annie (an actress); as often in Stoppard's plays, certain scenes & phrases repeat throughout the play with small variations. In this play one of the repeating scenes is of a wife returning home after a trip to a husband who thinks he has evidence of her infidelity -- sometimes the husband is mistaken, sometimes the wife has lied but not been unfaithful, sometimes he is correct. I f ...more
Lorma Doone
It's hard for me to rate this play. It certainly had something to say, but I'm not sure I liked it. I ABHOR the characters. There is nothing redeemable about them in my opinion, and they spend the play giving you more reasons to dislike them. Towards the end I found myself feel empathetic toward Henry, but that was a brief, fleeting moment. That being said, I also feel that this play is an excellent, spot-on examination of modern relationships. After you read it, you realize what a sad and depre ...more
Maria-Sophia
i'm wondering if there are two Tom Stoppards out there or if there was a problem when i uploaded the audio cd's to my ipod. i listened (while running - adding insult to injury!!! nothing worse than working out to something that sucks!)to about twenty minutes of this. what turned me off most were the really silly/crappy grandpa-esque wordplay jokes/humor that the audience seemed to find hysterical. And the little bit in the beginning about "the swiss not going digital" really wasnt that clever or ...more
Rich Law
I'm not all that familiar with Stoppard's stuff (I saw and loved Arcadia a few years ago), but I'll certainly be reading more.

The Real Thing is all about love, and it tackles it with an intelligence, wit, and depth that I've rarely come across. The titular "real thing" is hard to pin down; there are a couple of plays within this play and all the characters are professional actors/writers who are constantly mixing their profession with their personal lives by constantly acting. This doesn't make
...more
A.
Review: The Real Thing, Night and Day, Travesties by Tom Stoppard

I recently hear a technically brilliant, world famous organist and composer play one of his more difficult works. As I expected, it was technically brilliant, and arid. It recalled many technically brilliant works for the piano written during, principally, the Romantic period: brilliant, but arid. Spoiler alert: if technical brilliance is your touchstone in valuing music and drama, skip this review.
“Henry : Or perhaps I’d realize
...more
Holly
Sometimes I forget how much I like reading plays.

Aside from the super awkward cover, which made me feel like I was reading something trashy, I really, really loved this book (play. screenplay.).

Stoppard is an incredibly gifted playwright. This story is basically a commentary on love and relationships and has so many poignant moments that I had to stop taking note of the quotes that I liked because there were simply too many of them. Each character has a vastly different idea of what love is and
...more
Jason
Dull w/some smart meta pretension. I really don’t see how this is the play with the material get 2 lead and one sup Tonys in a year (and 2 lead Tonys for its revival). I barely even remember Charlotte, and I guess it is clever to talk at length about plays in a play – certainly it worked wonders in some of Shakespeare’s. But it was a slog.
Jeanne
I find that reading Stoppard's plays before I see them really helps me understand what's going on. I think this is one of his most accessible plays and absolutely LOVE the little speech he has in there comparing writing to a cricket bat. He's definitely a hero of mine.
Jeremy
Quite good, very clever. Would read again. Did read again, actually, since I had forgotten I already read it before.

Three stars only because I'm comparing this to other Stoppard plays -- R&G are Dead, Arcadia, which blow my mind.

I think one of the things that bugs me is that the play is about finding love, "the real thing," but while we certainly see a lot of things that *aren't* "the real thing," it never makes that final connection. It feels like the final scene(s) are supposed to get us t
...more
Jessica
2nd time read--04/03/13
Shelley
taking a break between books to re-read this on the first warm day. I saw this produced as a play, with who? Roy Scheider doing a painful British Accent I'm googling around here... It says that Glen Close was in it but I seem to remember Blythe Danner. Jeremy Irons was the memorable one.

Why it became really really important to track down my copy and stop most things to read it right-this-minute: I've been working on a new painting, and the idea is there but the composition is iffy. The painting
...more
David Gallagher
Sep 14, 2010 David Gallagher rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: The most cuddly man in the world
I listened to the audiobook of this play, and didn't actually read it. In many ways I prefer audiobooks when it comes to theatrical plays since that way it comes more alive, even if I'm not really prone towards audiobooks.

I loved many things about The Real Thing, it's from those kind of books that seem different every time you read them, especially if many years go by between readings. Because that thing they call life experience makes you view it differently as you gain more of it.

The characte
...more
H
Sep 03, 2013 H added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
HENRY: I can't help somebody who thinks, or thinks he thinks, that editing a newspaper is censorship, or that throwing bricks is a demonstration hile building tower blocks is social violence, or that unpalatable statement is provocation while disrupting the speaker is the exercise of free speech . . . Words don't deserve that kind of malarkey. THey're innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incompre ...more
Deborah
A creative look at the evolution of love in a couples' relationship.

I love you so use me. Be indulgent, negligent, preoccupied, premenstrual... your credit is infinite. I'm yours, I'm committed.

It's no trick loving somebody at their best. Love is loving them at their worst. Is that romantic? Well, good. Everything should be romantic. Love, work, music, literature, virginity, loss of virginity...
Paul Secor
A play that concerns love, lust, honesty, writing - what more could I want?

Soundtrack:
Hot Violins - Joe Venuti, Eddie South, Clifford Hayes, Emilio Cacares, Stuff Smith, et. al.
Ornette Coleman: Virgin Beauty
Mingus Plays Piano
J.S. Bach: Cello Suites - Anner Bylsma (1992)
This probably sounds as pretentious as Henry's Desert Island Discs in the play, but we all are what we are.
Andrew
A nice play. A good story with a good pace. The characters are enjoyable, and interesting. My biggest complaint is that sometimes I feel that Tom Stoppard was trying to hard. Some of the monologues felt like they were trying to hard to impress the reader or the audience, rather than sound like something that a person is actually saying. Not my favorite of Stoppard's work, but still good.
Joseph
I've known Stoppard through Arcadia and R & G are Dead, so it was very interesting to read a play that was set more in the "real world". I'd love to see it performed, but the reading experience was undeniably pleasurable. The first book in a long time that I "couldn't set down.". To truly approach the play, I think you would need to do a lot of investigation. Like Arcadia, it jumps right into the story, giving a window into talking professionals who take for granted there is an audience list ...more
Christopherseelie
The play-within-a-play conceit is a little confusing in the first act, but the second act is brilliant. The romantic circumstances flip adroitly. There's an even dozen monologues that give full picture to various romantic realities. Also, Stoppard's famous cricket bat analogy is in this play.
Valeri Drach
I'm not sure that I agree with Tom Stoppard's definition of the real thing when it comes to love but this was a great read. I'm looking forward to seeing the play this month. I don't know if Annie is worth Henry's devotion but there's probably eternal truth there.
Conrad
Takes about fifteen seconds to read. The most boring story imaginable. But someone gave to Stoppard, and mutatis mutandis, you get unlabored dialog that probes nearly everything worth talking about in two quick acts. If it's ever possible to get partial brain transplants and he's an organ donor, I have first dibs on Stoppard's language centers - it's about time someone else got a chance.

Anyway, it's about the serial infidelities of a few couples. One character's conversation with his daughter ab
...more
Andrea Heiden
I most definitely prefer seeing plays, as opposed to reading them. I'm sure that's common. I feel like some of this went over my head and would have been better translated watching it. I found it pretty boring and there was no one to relate to. Nothing about this felt "real" at all. I understand the mundane in long relationships and how affairs happen. What I do not understand is such cold, calculated disregard for your spouse. I do not think that is real life for most people, though I may find ...more
Mary-Louise
I've read this a couple times, and used to give copies to my boyfriends (now ex-boyfriends) with parts highlighted. I wish I could note the quotes I highlighted, but I gave away all my copies. Now I have a boyfriend who doesn't need to read it.

To summarize the play, without giving away anything, it's about the infidelity surrounding a silver-tongued writer named Henry. Through his tangled web and personal journey we learn (as he quips), "It's no trick loving somebody at their best. Love is lovi
...more
Rachel
This was ... not a Stoppard masterpiece, let's just say that. It was entertaining and had some interesting things to say about fidelity versus marriage, but perhaps it would have worked better as prose.
Kevin
Really playful from scene to scene, using performance a metaphor for infidelity. But the final confrontation with the Real (personified by Brodie) was less traumatic than I'd hoped.
Jalen Lyle-Holmes
Always love Stoppard. This one did less playing around with form than other things of his I've read. Quite simple and small, but...definitely the real thing. yeah.
Margaret Pinard
Nice ending, but some of dual levels weren't obvious as a reader, rather than a theatre-goer! Still, some good meat on the bones. Very short. Read in an hour.
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Sir Tom Stoppard OM, CBE, FRSL, is a British screenwriter and playwright.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Stop...
More about Tom Stoppard...
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Arcadia Travesties The Invention of Love The Real Inspector Hound and Other Plays

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“I mean, if Beethoven had been killed in a plane crash at twenty-two, the history of music would have been very different. As would the history of aviation, of course.” 220 likes
“Words... They're innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incomprehension and chaos. But when they get their corners knocked off, they're no good any more... 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 or make a poem which children will speak for you when you're dead.” 105 likes
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