The ageless inquiry into the nature of love has at times been handled quite poorly. Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell’s infectious, synchronized head-bopping to Haddaway’s “What is love?” in 1998’s “A Night at the Roxbury” is painfully memorable and threatened to immortalize “love” into a laughably lowbrow domain.
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Thankfully, the higher-brow crowd tackles similar romantic topics. Enter “The Real Thing,” the RC Players’s adaptation of British playwright Tom Stoppard’s 1982 production of the same name. “The Real Thing” profiles the infidelities of its lead characters ― Henry, a playwright, and Annie, an actress ― and the messy relationships that encompass them.
The RC Players is a student-run troupe based out of East Quad that performs student and professional pieces. According to LSA junior Sean FitzGerald, who directs the play, the RC Players ― which is open to non-RC students as well ― usually performs two full-length productions per semester. With “The Real Thing,” FitzGerald makes his first full-length directorial effort.
“It deals with a lot of themes that I feel are consistent throughout time,” FitzGerald said. “Like, what is love? How do you know if what you think love is actually is the real thing? Just a bunch of themes that resonate with everyone.”
FitzGerald said Stoppard’s humor and the show’s complexity make “The Real Thing” an attractive choice for a student adaptation.
Starring in his first RC Players production, LSA senior Dante Bugli headlines as Henry, an adulterous and charismatic playwright. Bugli, who has performed with campus theater organizations like Rude Mechanicals and the University’s Educational Theatre Company, highlighted the magnetic personality of Henry.
“He’s really good at talking over people, because he’s a playwright,” Bugli said. “He’s quick, he’s witty, and so he always has a lot of smart things to say and he can tell people what he wants to say and make people believe it.”
Bugli stars opposite LSA sophomore Miriam Kamil, who plays Annie, Henry’s mistress and eventual wife. According to Kamil, the role of Annie presents somewhat of a foreign personality.
“I’ve never played a character so different from me,” Kamil said. “It’s fun that she’s 30, but she sometimes acts like really young, really naïve. But sometimes it seems like she’s just pretending to be naïve, so she’s really complicated in that way.”
Bugli and Kamil represent only a small portion of the cast’s age diversity: According to FitzGerald, the cast consists of a mix of underclassmen and upperclassmen, a balance praised by one of the show’s co-producers, LSA sophomore Sophia Blumenthal, who works alongside LSA senior Rebecca Gutmann.
“We have a lot of new people in this cast, and it’s great to see how the dynamic with everyone is so pleasant,” Blumenthal said.
Still, the production has not been without its challenges. Particularly demanding, according to FitzGerald, was adapting to the scene changes required of a distinctive production like Stoppard’s.
“Scene changes normally are very complex,” FitzGerald said. “(In the original script) they have a circle stage that spins … enabling them to make quicker, more complex scenes changes, but we don’t have the resources for that. So I had to sit down and figure out how I was going to accomplish the scenes.”
These complexities, according to FitzGerald, were remedied by simply rearranging stage sets to signal shifts in time and place.
Individuals familiar with Stoppard’s production might notice a difference in the RC Players’s adaptation. Whereas the play originally takes place in 1980s-era England, the RC interpretation sets its characters as Americans in New York. In doing so, FitzGerald said he had to shift the script to westernize any “British-isms.”
FitzGerald does not feel that any of these minor changes, which were employed to scale back production and eliminate the potentially difficult teachability of a British accent, sacrifice Stoppard’s vision, saying that “all the core elements are still there.”
FitzGerald hopes to impart an overarching message upon audiences.
“I want people to think about their current relationships, their past relationships, even what happens in the future,” FitzGerald said. “And kind of wonder about the connections being made, and if they are the ‘real thing.’ ”