Ewan McGregor and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Photograph by Richard Phibbs.
Ewan McGregor and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Photograph by Richard Phibbs.

We’re in for a war of thewords this month when revivalsof Tom Stoppard’sThe Real Thingand Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balancehit Broadway, fueled bystar-powered casts. The Real Thing, about a playwright in a faltering marriage, features Ewan McGregor and Maggie Gyllenhaal in their Broadway debuts, along with Cynthia Nixon and Josh Hamilton.The Tony Award–winning drama first seduced New York audiences30 years ago (with Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close in the leadingroles) and is widely considered theverballydexterous Britishplaywright’s most moving andpersonal play. Close, meanwhile, makes her much anticipated returnto the stage in A Delicate Balance, Albee’s Pulitzer Prize–winning 1966 drama about a long-married well-to-do couple (Close and JohnLithgow) trying to maintain their sangfroid amid the comings andgoings of untethered family andfriends. While in Albee’s corrosive work, language acts as a kind ofarmature meant to hold emotions at bay, in The Real Thing it is thevehicle for letting them rip. “I tend to take on plays where the characters are much less articulatethan they are in the world of a 1980s Tom Stoppard play,” Sam Gold, the director of The Real Thing, told me. “Contemporary American culture is all about communicating in between the lines.” McGregor,he says, sprung immediately to mind for the part of the intellectual powerhouse Henry, who can parrywith the best of them but can’t get his head around love. “He’ll bring youth and energy to the role,”said Gold. “Ewan can make being a1980s playwright sexy again.”