Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Stoppard's ambitious 'Arcadia' launches new JTC season

Tom Stoppard's plays are not for the intellectually faint of heart.

In his dazzling and accomplished Arcadia, the playwright's roving mind and lively wit concoct a densely-packed thematic narrative touching on mathematics and physics, English history and culture, landscape gardening, the Romantic movement, academic infighting, Lord Byron, and—of course—sex and literature.

It's a long, smart, frequently funny play, and Jewel Theatre Company enhances its reputation for ambitious productions by staging Arcadia to kick off its ninth season.
Hannah Mary J. Keller and Robert Anthony Peters

The play is written as a kind of literary mystery, which plays out alongside its resolution in two separate time periods, 200 years apart, on the play's single set, a drawing room at an English country estate. Returning JTC stalwart Susan Myer Silton directs with efficiency and aplomb, keeping characters moving crisply in and out of Ron Gasparinetti's handsome, stationary set.

She also manages the tricky dance of keeping each character true to his or her historical and cultural era, even when they (occasionally) occupy the same set at the same time.

In 1809, at the country estate of Sidley Park, a proper young lady of the Regency era, Thomasina Coverly (a spirited Hannah Mary J. Keller), is attempting to study Fermat's Theorem with her self-possessed young tutor, Septimus Hodge (the very effective Robert Anthony Peters).
 Meanwhile, her mother, Lady Croom (a terrific Shannon Warrick), is suffering the renovation of her formal, Classicist garden with an overlay of faux-wild, gothic elements, in keeping with the fashion for Romanticism that's becoming all the rage.

In alternating scenes in the present day, a pair of literary scholars (Jeff Garrett and Julie James, left) attempt to piece together a mystery from the past, and adroit comedy is made from the juxtaposition of the modern academics' theorizing and the way events actually play out.

Garret's hilarious Bernard Nightingale is the raucous centerpiece of this production, a volatile academic hell-bent on pummeling a few scant crumbs of historical possibility into the proof he needs to support his pet theory. (Read more)

(Photos by Steve DiBartolomeo)

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