The Real Thing

The Real Thing, 7 p.m. Wednesday; 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; $22-$45. Capital Stage, 2215 J Street; (916) 995-5464; Through February 23.
Rated 5.0

Capital Stage’s production of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing is a perfect pairing of an engaging play with top-notch performances.

Stoppard’s The Real Thing, a Tony Award winner in 1984 and also in a revival in 2000, is a fascinating look at life, love, lust, marriage, genders, the theater world and a wordsmith playwright. Using plot twists and quick-fire witty dialogue, the story traces a couple of romances—both onstage in a play-within-a-play, and offstage—as truth, fidelity and relationships get a little cloudy.

In the center of the action is self-absorbed playwright Henry (John Pasha) whose work encompasses strong male roles and less articulate female roles, a fact his wife Charlotte (Megan Pearl Smith) points out to him as he carries those viewpoints into his everyday life with less success. He also is quick to use his words as weapons, both in his plays and in everyday conversations.

But the plot thickens when Henry mixes up his theater world with his real world: Enter another theater couple, Annie (Jamie Kale) and Max (Michael Wiles) and a subplot involving a political prisoner.

The engaging and talented cast members, who seamlessly work together as a cohesive and tight unit, include newcomers to Capital Stage: Pasha and Kale, along with returnees Smith and Wiles. The supporting cast includes newbies Luke Myers and Ryan Snyder and Capital Stage apprentice Elyse Sharp.

Director Janis Stevens not only keeps the action flowing, she keeps the timing on mark, a challenge in a play full of fast-paced repartees and subtle interactions. The clever set that enables quick scene changes and the soundtrack, with songs that sync with underlining messages, add to the overall experience.

It’s a pleasure watching the work of gifted actors and a strong director and production team bring to life the work of a first-rate playwright. This production of The Real Thing really sings.