The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday May 31st

Lab! Theater Looks for 'The Real Thing'

With "The Real Thing," it's a perfect tease, at once simple and enigmatic.

For those who missed its recent revival last year in New York, Lab! Theatre is here through Tuesday to offer salvation.

The student-run theater company has put together a production that promises to offer a very different kind of theater experience.

"So much of the theater on campus doesn't talk about love directly. I think this is a show people can really relate to," said Maggie Andrews, the play's director.

Andrews, a senior drama major from Wilmington, first saw "The Real Thing" when it opened in London more than a year ago.

"It was the first production that seemed perfect in every respect," she said.

Arguably one of the most important playwrights working today, Stoppard won an Oscar two years ago for the film "Shakespeare in Love."

Apparently, the critics agreed that its revival was a success. When the play landed in the U.S., it won three Tonys, including one for Best Revival.

"The Real Thing" was a departure for Stoppard because it is considered his most autobiographical work. The play is about the boundaries of love, art and infidelity. Henry (junior Matt Mercer) is a playwright who falls for an actress, Annie (sophomore Carolyn Shook), who is also the wife of his friend.

Or, as Andrews sums it up, "life imitating art and art imitating life."

"Nothing is as it seems in each scene. Stoppard wants you to question to the end whether what you're seeing is real," she added.

Stoppard uses music to talk about the line between high art and popular culture, making it an important motif in the production and one of Andrews' favorite aspects. The production is drenched in pop songs from the '50s and '60s, with a few classical pieces thrown into the mix.

The two main characters have very distinct, if not ironic, opinions about music.

"Henry thinks with his head, and yet he's the one who loves pop music," she said. "Annie, on the other hand, thinks with her heart but loves classical music."

The work is Andrews' directorial debut. She said shifting from actress to director provided her a different point of view about her work.

"Acting is about understanding one character, but directing requires learning to look at the play from every conceivable perspective. I'd go into rehearsal and my brain would be split into seven different characters."

But in the end, Andrews said she trusts her talented cast to pull off this ambitious play.

"The actors who won the Tonys are not half as good as my actors."

"The Real Thing" will run Feb. 23-27 at the Playmakers Theatre. Admission is free.

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