Arcadia: An Exciting and Romantic Decline from Thinking to Feeling.
Walking into a Tom Stoppard play (The Real Thing, Rock ‘n’ Roll), always sends me into an excited state, thrilled to be challenged and inspired to do some pre-theatre studying. His words tend to weave a wild web that makes one feel enlightened, educated, and cared for. He makes me want to read up on topics and ideas so that I may fully understand what many of his intellectual characters are referring to and talking about. It was definitely the case with The Coast of Utopia, that magnificent masterpiece that played the Lincoln Center in three parts back in 2006. The more well read you were from the extensive suggested reading list provided in the program, the more you could take in all the layers and textures he had created. And the easier it was to follow the narrative.
With Arcadia, his 1993 ode to the exploration of literal evidence and intellectual truth, we are given a short list of theories and personas to acquaint ourselves. This reading up is to help us better comprehend the discussions that take place between the numerous poets, scientists, and intellectuals, both modern and from the early 1800’s that occupy the sitting room of Sidley Park. The list includes such concepts as Newtonian, Relativity, Deterministic Universe, and the Second law of Thermodynamics, and people like Lord Byron, Lady Caroline Lamb, Pierre de Fermat, and the famous English landscape designer, “Capability” Brown. Only in a Stoppard play would all these names and theories come up in casual conversation.
Arcadia is set in an English country house in Derbyshire, and takes place is both the early 1800’s and the present day. The piece follows the intellectual activities and studies of modern scholars exploring the house juxtaposed with the people who lived in Sidley Park in 1806, but don’t get overwhelmed by the time jumping construct, the big conceptual theories, and historical names tossed about. Ultimately this stunningly beautiful and funny play that delves into the world of history and science, literature and sex, and most importantly, the relationship between past and present, order and disorder, and the balance of certainty and uncertainty is a joy to behold. Knowing these concepts well, or even just slightly, may enhance the moment, but it is in the relationships that Stoppard really thrives. His words and scenarios may feel heady and erudite, but in many ways it comes down to passion, for whatever it is you are passionate about, both in the past and present.
(for the full review, click here)
Posted on July 24, 2017