Friday, May 13, 2016

"Arcadia" by Tom Stoppard at Central Square Theatre - A Must See That Must Close This Weekend

The Cast of "Arcadia"
by Tom Stoppard
Nora Theatre Company
Through May 15th

Photo by A.R. Sinclair

(Caveat: Several weeks ago I underwent rotator cuff surgery, and my right shoulder, arm and hand have been immobilized in a sling until very recently. I just began several months of post-op physical therapy.  I had been severely hampered in my ability to type, so several worthy shows that I have seen recently have not been reviewed in a timely manner.  Beginning with today, I will work to clear up the backlog.  Please be aware that my reviews may be more limited than usual until I am up to date. Several excellent shows are no longer playing, but I will highlight them, offering the assurance that when it comes time to submit my suggestions for nominations for the 2016 IRNE Awards, these shows and the people involved with them, will receive the consideration they deserve. Thank you for your understanding and support.)

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"Arcadia" is one of those shows I saw several weeks ago, but had been unable to review until today because of my shoulder issues.  This Nora Theatre Company production of Tom Stoppard's brilliant play is one of the highlights of the season, and is a "Must See" if you can get to Central Square this weekend.  The run of the play has already been extended because of its popularity, but it must close after this weekend. The play is part of the fantastic Catalyst Collaborative @ MIT series that offers works that address the interface between science and art.

The premise is complex and involves traveling back and forth in time between two eras - 1809 and 1994. Hannah and Bernard travel to the ancestral home of the Croom family to unearth evidence of what their lives must have been like.  Thomasina had been a young member of the household who turned out to be a mathematical genius, anticipating fractals and iterated algorithms long before they were conceived of by more seasoned - and more male - minds.  Using Stoddard's facility for language as an instrument of play and of discovery, the characters from both eras uncover things about the past and about themselves - lessons that are universal and timeless. As Director Lee Mikeska Gardner says in her program notes: "At the center of the play four wonderful women hold fast to who they are, as the men in their lives play catch up."

Everything about this production is extraordinary.  Ms. Gardner handles the complexities of orchestrating such a convoluted and fractalized story line with great skills.  We always know in what era we are watching interactions among the richly written characters.  Janie E. Howland's scenic design brings us to the place and times envisioned by the playwright, and the period costumes by Leslie Held are beautifully wrought. Lighting by John R. Malinkowski and Sound by Nathan Leigh add to the overall impression of a commitment to excellence that is a hallmark of this production.

Kira Patterson as Thomasina
Will Madden as Septimus
by Tom Stoppard
Photo: A.R. Sinclair

Mr. Stoppard's brilliant writing is matched by an equally stellar cast.  I lack the time to highlight individual performances, but I will opine that when next award season rolls around, you can be quite certain that you will find several of the following names among the nominees for awards:

Kira Patterson as Thomasina Coverly
Will Madden as Septimus Hodge
Elbert Joseph as Jellaby
Alexander Platt as Ezra Chater
Harsh J. Gagoomal as Richard Noakes
Sarah Oakes Muirhead as Lady Croom
Jesse Garlick as Captain Brice
Celeste Oliva as Hannah Jarvis
Jade Wheeler as Chloe Coverly
Ross McDonald as Bernard Nightingale
Matthew Zahnzinger as Valentine Coverly

and Tank the Turtle!

Beginning with this evening's performance, there are 5 more opportunities to see this excellent play at Central Square Theatre.



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