NEW YORK (Reuters) - Thirty years after its initial Broadway run, Scottish actor Ewan McGregor is heading an all-star cast in the latest revival of Tom Stoppard’s Tony winning play, “The Real Thing,” about love, truth, marriage and infidelity.
The Roundabout Theatre Company production, which opened on Thursday, marks the Broadway debut of McGregor, known for his film roles in “The Impossible” and “Moulin Rouge” and his co-star Maggie Gyllenhaal (“White House Down”).
The pair play lovers in roles originated on Broadway by Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close in the 1984 production directed by Mike Nichols. Another prize-winning revival was staged on Broadway in 2000
Although USA Today said “Stoppard’s ‘Real Thing’ has real magnetism,” the New York Times found the latest revival tinny and lacking in authenticity.
“Evidence of real feelings, real chemistry and real life in general is dishearteningly scarce in this interpretation,” it added.
McGregor is Henry, a witty, British playwright, who is married to an actress named Charlotte, played by Cynthia Nixon, but is having an affair with Annie (Gyllenhaal), also an actress.
The revival is a return to the play for Nixon, known for her role in the TV series “Sex in the City,” who played Henry and Charlotte’s teenage daughter Debbie in the 1984 production.
“The Real Thing” opens with a play within the play, which mirrors reality, as Annie’s real-life actor husband Max, played by Josh Hamilton, confronts Charlotte about a suspected infidelity in a play called “House of Cards” that was written by Henry.
After Henry’s affair with Annie is revealed, they split from their spouses to be together and marry. But before long Henry becomes suspicious about Annie’s relationship with an actor.
Variety described McGregor’s performance as “impressive” and the Daily News said it is a “bang-up Broadway debut.”
“With no sign of struggle, he’s charismatic and convincing as he plays Henry’s various facets - witty, glib, snobbish and importantly, romantic,” it said.
London’s The Guardian newspaper agreed, adding he is “wounded and needy and still somehow appealing.”
But the New York Post found him “too cuddly” and the New York Times said although he is charming and hands on and delivers his lines with flair, he doesn’t portray an author ravaged by inner doubts.
“You can’t imagine real life getting under his skin,” it added.
Reviews for Gyllenhaal were also mixed with USA Today saying her Annie was grounded from the start with an “effortless sensuality” and The Daily News calling her debut “vibrant, sensual and reckless.”
Although the New York Times said her performance was “very poised” it added “she seems more like a visiting lecturer on the subject of passion rather than its avatar.”
Stoppard’s sharp, biting script is sprinkled with Henry’s favorite pop songs, including Neil Sedaka’s “Oh! Carol” and The Crystals’ “Da Doo Ron Ron,” that the cast sing together.
While the music irked some critics, the New York Post thought it worked, but found the overall production disappointing.
“While ‘The Real Thing’ traffics in big ideas - art, love, cynicism, fidelity - the whole feels muted,” said the Post said.
Reporting by Patricia Reaney; editing by Andrew Hay