note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Richard Pacheco
Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia” is widely admired intellectual and hilarious play about two groups of people from different periods in time who share a single room. One group is from the early 19th century, the second is a group of modern-day historians researching the period the first group lives in. It is wily and witty, challenging and hilarious propelled by a simply superb large cast.
“Arcadia” is set in Sidley Park, an English country house in Derbyshire, and takes place in both 1809/1812 and the present day (1993 in the original production). The activities of two modern scholars and the house's current residents are juxtaposed with those of the people who lived there in the earlier period. In 1809, Thomasina Coverly, the daughter of the house, is a precocious teenager with ideas about mathematics, nature and physics well ahead of her time. She studies with her tutor Septimus Hodge, a friend of Lord Byron (an unseen guest in the house). In the present, writer Hannah Jarvis and literature professor Bernard Nightingale converge on the house: she is investigating a hermit who once lived on the grounds; he is researching a mysterious chapter in the life of Byron. As their studies unfold – with the help of Valentine Coverly, a post-graduate student in mathematical biology – the truth about what happened in Thomasina's time is gradually revealed.
The result is an astute, provocative energetic comedy that ably balances the intellectual with razor sharp humor.
Grace Viveiros who makes her debut with the Gamm is simply stunning. She is a delicate and deft combination of hungry innocence and wily intelligence. She shines gloriously in the role.
Jeff Church is her cynical and womanizing tutor Septimus Hodge. He takes advantage of any situation with a woman at the slightest provocation and the most minimal encouragement with flair and panache. Church is delightful in the role with just the right touch of cynicism and intellect. He is sheer fun.
Ezra Chater (Brandon Whitehead) is a most cuckolded man with his wife wooed and won but just about every male within 50 miles including the never seen but famous Lord Byron. His sense of comic timing is wondrous.
Rounding out the rest of the modern day batch of strange, quirky folk are Emily White as Chloe, her older brother Valentine played by Jesse Hinton and double cast Douglas Meeker as her younger brother. They are all excellent.
This is a gem, don’t miss it.