Prince William Little Theatre ArcadiaBy Mari Davis • Nov 12th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Prince William Little Theatre
Round Elementary School, Manassas, VA
Through November 22nd
2:45 with one intermission
Reviewed November 8th, 2009
Arcadia tells the parallel stories of historical events and academics piecing together the sequences of those events. The nature of the plot relies heavily upon the narrative by the actors, not their actions. As such, the story requires a lot of mental engagement from the audience.
Directed by Carl Brandt Long, Prince William Little Theatre’s presentation ultimately came together for me, but it was difficult to follow. The story is nuanced and sometimes confusing. The vocal and emotional dynamics of the show fluctuated very little, which hid the key points of the show in a stream of sameness. Technical aspects of the production varied. Arcadiais an entertaining mental exercise, but PWLT’s production was a little lackluster.
When I say that the dynamics of the show fluctuated very little, that is not to say that the show lacked energy. Rather, it had a great sense of enthusiasm, but every line was delivered with the same kind of emotional charge. This was especially detrimental to key points in dialogue that established and then propelled the story. Those lines were lost in the sea of words that I was trying to process. Better expressive punctuation would have diminished that effect.
Long’s cast was reasonable. His actors in the scenes set in the 1800s were too modern. Their body language and vocal delivery were both far too grounded in the modern day. One exception was Lady Croom, played by Elizabeth Heir. Her poise and characterization distinguished her from the rest of the cast in her scenes.
The moderns scenes were well-executed and more easily understood than those of the older era. Hannah Jarvis, played by Sara Joy Lebowitz, characterized a harassed academic well. Her vocal expression was very clear, though at times it was difficult to follow her character’s intellectual journey.
Valentine’s body language was superior in this production. William MacLeod portrayed his character well, whether by design or not. Unfortunately, while he was fun to watch, many of his lines got lost in translation. Better enunciation would have improved the audience’s understanding.
George Kitchen played the role of Bernard Nightingale, an academic whose obsession with Lord Byron brings him to Hannah. Kitchen’s memorization was effectively impeccable, though his characterization lent to the lack of dynamic in the overall production.
Having addressed the lack of emotional differentiation, I would like to address the technical aspects of the production. The set was ingenious and simple, consisting of one long flat with a double door, and a sturdy table with chairs. The whole set was constructed in the center of a gymnasium. Set construction allowed for the audience to sit on three sides, but much of the sound was lost in the large room which may have lent to the lack of emotional dynamic from the players. The lights also often felt inadequate, being either too dark or misplaced.
The three-quarter round also made it possible for actors to completely turn their backs on whole sections of the audience at a time. While it is acceptable, even necessary, in that venue, it makes me flinch when the actors do not compensate for the highest concentration of the audience.
Props, especially books, figure greatly into the continuity of the show. They were successfully used, but lacked strength of presence. The table, which serves at the hub for the story, became very cluttered by the end of the show which added to the mental clutter of trying to evaluate all of the words.
Costumes, by Sevinc Bailey, were very nice. It was pleasant to see period costumes with multiple layers in a community theater production.
PWLT’s production of Arcadia was reasonable, all things considered. There were both strengths and weaknesses in the production. The story of Arcadia is very wordy and would make for a marvelous radio drama, so make sure that you are prepared to listen closely.
From the Director
Since he became a hit with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Stoppard experimented with integrating plot, form, structure, and ideas in his plays. In Arcadia, more than 25 years later, he found the balance he had been seeking for decades. The play and its multiple metaphors each express the central theme: the way of the universe is unavoidably order into disorder. Arcadia urges us to acknowledge that we cannot recreate the past any more than we can determine the future. Rather than despair, we should enjoy the journey, for the past is unknowable and the future unpredictable, and we can never know as much about the present as we do right now.
Similarly, the personalities and backgrounds of the people that come together to put on a play are different every time, and we discover that we are unable to recreate the methods or conditions or relationships we had on previous projects. We forge new bonds; we find new ways of approaching a play from what we’ve done before. And we know that even after months of work on a play, the preparations we made and unpredictable elements will unfold together to make each of our eight performances unique.
Over these past few months, I have had the pleasure of exploring this fascinating play with a wonderfully enthusiastic and dedicated cast and production team. Understanding and mounting Arcadia seemed daunting when I first signed on to direct it, and I would like to thank them for making the work feel effortless and enjoyable.
Photos by Dave Warner for Prince William Little Theatre
- Thomasina: Charlotte Guthery
- Gus/Augustus: Daniel Kitchen
- Noakes: Michael S. Sandoval
- Lady Croom: Elizabeth Heir
- Bernard: George Kitchen
- Jellaby: Jack Seaver
- Captain Brice: Michael Divers
- Septimus: Michael Feidt
- Chater: Richard Yingling
- Hannah: Sara Joy Lebowitz
- Chloe: Tegan Cohen
- Valentine: William MacLeod
- Director: Carl Brandt Long
- Producer: Dave Warner
- Stage Manager: Michael Clark
- Set Design: Carl Brandt Long, Michael Clark, Dave Warner, Bob Shon
- Set Construction and Painting: Dave Warner, Bob Shon, Don Petersen, Becky Farris, Mike Clark, Katherine Blondin
- Set Dressing: Carl Brandt Long, Michael Clark, Laura Clark
- Properties: Dave Warner, Michael Clark, Carl Brandt Long, Laura Clark, Cast
- Lighting Design: John E. Lumiere, PWLT Staff
- Sound Design: Carl Brandt Long, Michael Clark, Ryan Kern
- Light Board Operation: Rebecca Jackson, Chris Young
- Sound Board Operation: Ryan Kern
- Costumes: Sevinc Bailey
- Hair and Make-up: Mary Price
- Setup and Running Crew: Carl Brandt Long, Dave Warner, Bob Shon, Michael Clark, Laura Clark, Chris Young, Ryan Kern, Rebecca Jackson, PWLT Staff
- House Manager: Cana Wade
- Poster & Program Artwork: Carl Brandt Long, Dave Warner
- Program Design: Dave Warner
- Publicity: Dave Warner, Don Wilson, Zina Bleck, Cast
- Load-in: Dave Warner, Bob Shon, Richard Yingling, Mike Clark, David Johney
Disclaimer: Prince William Little Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. PWLT also purchased an advertising banner on the ShowBizRadio web site. And ShowBizRadio editors Michael and Laura Clark are working on this production in many different areas.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/4311.
Mari Davis is a student of Speech and Communication at Northern Virginia Community College. She has been involved in the performing arts since the age of five when she debuted as the Little Red Hen on an elementary school stage. Her career includes both national and international ensemble performances with semi-professional choirs, various roles in community and college musicals (both onstage and off), as well as co-directing drama camp for Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA.