Saturday, October 08, 2005

Stoppard, Tom that is, and Me

Last night it was Benoit Mandelbrot, tonight my man was Tom. Tomorrow is the last show of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing (written in 1984) playing at the Huntingtom Theatre Company, directed by Evan Yionoulis. Not that I know Evan, but I thought I should give credit to her for staging such a lovely play.

Tom. What can I say? If you know his plays, and screenplays (not to mention his fiction and nonfiction and just about every word out of his mouth, I’m sure), then you know how it is to be post-Tom. So, at any rate, tomorrow is the last show and I finally got my act together and went online to see if there were seats available. When you look for one ticket, there is always a prime seat stage center so that your single seat status is no secret. Alas. I don’t hate going to plays, movies, dance, whatever alone. But I don’t love it either.

Of course, since it was Tom, all was good. My affair with Tom started back in college when we read his play Arcadia. In the intervening years I saw glimpses of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (I had to leave the theater early for some unfathomable reason). I saw Shakespeare in Love and Enigma, for which he wrote the screenplays. I saw The Invention of Love on Broadway, I think? Or was that in Chicago? I remember the stage set, but I can’t recall the city. Finally, last year, I saw a production of Arcadia at Notre Dame. I adore play analysis, but seeing a play in the flesh is always so much, well, more. So tonight I happily went along to see The Real Thing, even though I had no idea where the plot might take me. Even though it is raining like crazy out there and I had to make the fifteen minute walk in my heels. Okay, so that last part, about the heels, was a choice.

Of course, it was witty and dense with allusions—an English teacher’s wildest dream on stage. The four main characters, who lived in London in the early 1980s, worked through the verbal gymnastics of their relationships as they vaulted over and tumbled across whatever the "real thing" might be, or not be. Lots of quoteable lines, only I can't quite remember them. It is more like I feel them still. I should buy the script of The Real Thing and underline all those bits. The worst part of seeing something great when you are alone is that it seems less great somehow. Darn it.

I am no Stoppard expert and so here is a link or two and a quote for your enjoyment. My advice, if you see a Stoppard play in production: Go.

"I write plays because writing dialogue is the only respectable way of contra-dicting yourself. I'm the kind of person who embarks on an endless leapfrogdown the great moral issues. I put a position, rebut it, refute it, refute the rebuttal, and rebut the refutation. Forever. Endlessly." — Tom Stoppard from an interview with Mel Gussow in the New York Times, 26 April 1972.

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