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Barbra Andrews and Sam Gregory star in Paragon Theatre's The Real Thing, through August 14.
Barbra Andrews and Sam Gregory star in Paragon Theatre's The Real Thing, through August 14.

The Real Thing. The first scene in this play is between a husband and the wife he suspects of adultery. She has just returned from a purported business trip to Switzerland, which he believes she never took. The dialogue is swift and urbane, with wry ruminations on digital watches, the Japanese and whales. He airs his suspicions; she leaves. The woman enters a second living room. And, lo, there's her husband. A different husband. This is the home that Charlotte shares with her playwright husband, Henry, and the first scene turns out to be from one of his plays, House of Cards. There's more dialogue, still very witty, but not quite as self-consciously so. The man from the first scene enters with his wife. He's Max, she's Annie; both are actors. Of course, there are adulterous undercurrents. Annie and Henry are in love. When it comes to light, Charlotte takes Henry and Annie's affair in stride, but Max's response is nothing like that of the urbane character he played in House of Cards. He falls messily, miserably apart. By the second act, Henry is forced to face the questions suggested by the title: What is love? How do you settle into a long-term commitment when your partner is faithless, feral Annie — whom, nonetheless, he desperately loves. Henry would like to write a play about love more grounded than House of Cards, but in the face of the real thing, words fail him. The genius of Tom Stoppard's play is in the coruscating dialogue, and the cast is certainly up to it. Unfortunately, the playing space dissipates sound, and if you can't hear every word, you're not getting The Real Thing. Presented by Paragon Theatre through August 14, 1387 South Santa Fe Drive, 303-300-2210, Reviewed August 5.

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