I'm not a big fan of the current Broadway revival of Stoppard's Coward-esque romcom, but I had seen and, to my recollection, somewhat enjoyed a production of it about a decade ago in L.A., at International City Theatre. I just dug up my brief review as part of my old Wicked Stage column for Back Stage West, and see that not only did also happen to catch a (lukewarm) production of Cloud 9 around that time featuring Ione Skye (!) but that I actually found The Real Thing somewhat wanting as a play, as again I do on Broadway:
The problem isn't Jules Aaron's direction but, I dare say, the play. This is probably Stoppard's most popular work--with American audiences, at least--and it's easy to see why: It's smart and sexy, and it's teasingly doubtful but ultimately affirmative about the possibility of long-lasting human relationships. I'd say it cheats a bit too much, though, to bring its leads together, finally; Stoppard sloughs off the moral compromise of Henry, a playwright roped into rewriting a terrible political play, a little too easily by having his actress-wife make a confession and then humiliate the play's talentless original author. It's a sour climax that effectively tacks a crude Post-It on all the play's wonderfully pointed exchanges about the high calling of writers. Still, I do love the way Stoppard warmly but unmercifully nails the vulnerabilities of luvvie theatre folk, and these are lushly realized by Laura Wernette, Spencer Garrett, Joseph Sanfelippo, and above all the dusky Michelle Duffy, showing herself a most fetching romantic comedienne. Best of all, the production has Robertson Dean in the lead; Dean perfectly captures the intelligent self-absorption that can make writers simultaneously so attractive and so maddening. Like Chekhov's Professor Serebryakov, he's the sort who always gets the best women but can't relax enough to be satisfied with them. That is, until they beg for his forgiveness.That sounds about right, though that part of loving the luvvies--maybe not so much anymore. Still, it's nice to recall the performances of Rob Dean and of Michelle Duffy, who I most recently saw as the concerned mom in the Off-Broadway tuner Heathers.
(And at least the Roundabout has one good Stoppard play running now; it's called Indian Ink and I urge you not to miss it.)