Theater Info for the Washington DC region

H-B Woodlawn High School Arcadia

By • Apr 17th, 2007 • Category: Cappies

Sex and literature provide the focus for Tom Stoppard’s masterpiece Arcadia. The play, once nominated as “the best science book ever written” by London’s Royal Institution, rides on humankind’s omnipresent connection to the past and future.

Thomasina Coverly – played by Maddy Smith

Arcadia‘s first New York performance in 1995 featured the talents of Academy Award-nominated actor Paul Giamatti, actor Billy Crudup, and Trevor Nunn, past director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The 1995 production received a Tony Award nomination for best play. Considering its prestigious roots, H-B Woodlawn’s cast and crew picked a daunting challenge, but executed it with obvious vigor. The production constructed a time machine, catapulted the audience between centuries, and formed an intellectually stimulating juxtaposition between the dramas of 1803 and an emotionally charged 2007.

An old and historically rich country house in Sidley Park acts as the medium through which H-B Woodlawn’s production transcends time. Authors, botanists, poets, and the brightest of mathematicians quickly weave in and out of the home’s many doors, delivering powerful speeches and stumbling upon significant discoveries. Tom Stoppard’s play touches on everything from physics and nihilism to landscape design. The interwoven motifs, while intensely abstract, endowed the production with dizzying allure.

Inescapable humor and witty barbs balance out the intense subject matter in Arcadia. While the play coaxed the audience to question logic, the cast demonstrated expert knowledge of the script, developing the characters with depth and skill. Simply going through the motions was not an option for the H-B Woodlawn players. Strong acting anchored the play and smashed the audience/character barrier into a thousand pieces.

Graham Hooper, as the pretentious Bernard Nightingale, skillfully commanded the stage. His expertly crafted hand gestures and expressions brought the erudite prose to life. Paired onstage, Hooper and Samantha Sheahan, as Chloe Coverly, produced an undeniable sexual tension. As Chloe Coverly countering Nightingale’s self-interested quest for prestige, Sheahan conveyed a charming sense of humanity. Maddy Smith, playing Thomasina Coverly of 1803, brought a whimsical naivete to the set that, like the Nightingale-Coverly couple of 2007, matched the charisma of William Haltiwanger as Coverly’s tutor Septimus Hodge. H-B Woodlawn selected a cast saturated with emotion and brimming with talent.

Hannah Jarvis and Bernard Nightingale Р played by Ashleigh Brown and Graham Hooper

Each century, be it the 19th of the 21st, blended together exquisitely. The actors conveyed a palpable energy throughout the piece, enthralling the audience. Student director Gregory Benson and assistant director Meg Brady forged an unforgettable production. The attention to consistent humor, polished comedic timing, and choreographed scenes glued together the piece’s scholarly reasoning.

The sparse set added a realistic element to Arcadia‘s already serious verse. Lighting established the time of day, mood, and paralleled the emotional exchange of the room’s inhabitants. Period costumes created by students Anna Strasburger and Claire Fogarty added to the contrast between 1803 and 2007.

H-B Woodlawn tackled a prestigious play and tamed its pedantic script. The cast and crew earned the audience’s plentiful laughter and a deserved ovation for their expert performance.

Reviewed by Glynis Mattheisen of WT Woodson.

This review was written by a Cappies high school critic. The Cappies were founded in 1999, for the purpose of celebrating high school theater arts and providing a learning opportunity for theater and journalism students. You can learn more at

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is a program which was founded in 1999, for the purpose of celebrating high school theater arts and providing a learning opportunity for theater and journalism students. You can learn more at

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