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St. Mark’s Players Arcadia

By • Jan 24th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
St. Mark’s Players
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC
Through January 28th
2:35 with one intermission
$20$18 Seniors and Students
Reviewed January 20th, 2012

Would you have ever thought of creating a play incorporating mathematics, love, music, dancing, and the death of the universe? And have it take place over the course of two centuries without being science fiction? Tom Stoppard followed through on that idea, and created Arcadia.

The play takes place in a room of an English estate, Sidley Park. Some scenes take place in 1809, other scenes take place in the current time. The two casts do not interact directly, although by watching and listening closely, you will be given hints and suggestions that will help clarify what is said and done in the other time period. But to give any of those details away would be a disservice.

The 1809 cast was less successful than the current day cast in keeping the audience’s attention. The period cast tended to speak more quickly, and with a bit less focus, making it a bit more difficult to follow the twists and turns of the play. Kathleen Laird as precocious student Thomasina Coverly successfully portrayed the girl’s innocence as she struggled with understanding and applying math, French, and other adult topics. Her tutor, Septimus Hodge was effectively played by Will Emory, although he didn’t quite present Hodge as suave a man as he could have. Karen Lawrence as Lady Croom was mannerly, yet Lawrence made the steel in the velvet glove readily apparent as she decided she would not put up with Chater’s corrections, or when she commanded Hodge read her some poetry.

The modern day cast did not need to work so hard at bringing the audience into the period. Caroline Schreiber was compelling as author Hannah Jarvis, although it took her a bit of time to warm up and find her stride. Her foil was academician Bernard Nightingale, played by Clyde Wright. Wright made his character to be a bit sappy as he groveled with Hannah, but over time he became stronger with a better presence, especially as the two argued over the interpretations of their findings.

There were quite a few times when the cast was hard to hear. This was most obvious when the piano was being played. Occasionally the actors’ mics stopped working, which oddly enough, actually made it easier to hear most of the actors as their voices weren’t echoing as loudly throughout the cavernous playing space at St. Mark’s Church. Some of the blocking was awkward at times, as characters would end up speaking upstage. Cameron Lane’s set made great use of the space, incorporating the church’s steps and raised platform into the set.

Overall, St. Mark’s Players’ Arcadia was an enjoyable and thought-provoking production.

Director’s Notes

When I told people I would be directing Arcadia, I typically got one of two responses. First, that it was their favorite play. Second, that as a first time director it was quite a challenge to take on; quite right on both accounts. I wholeheartedly believe Arcadia is an incredible play and it is, without a doubt, my favorite as well. I also know how challenging it is. It is a complex and intricately woven account of individuals living nearly 200 years apart. It tells its story with humor, with intellect and with heart as we see the action unfold through Stoppards’s genuine and yet flawed characters.

It challenges its audience by asking big questions through the exploration of math, science, and literature, while at the same time giving us an intimate look into the daily lives of our characters. It considers how the bigger ideas about the cosmos, god, and nature apply to us as people. It looks into how ideas and the pursuit of knowledge can not only shake the world to its core, but can also make one question everything they once thought they knew about themselves. It explores how sex, love, and matters of the heart throw one’s simple and orderly world into complete chaos. Not only does it pose these questions, but it also delves into how over time, even as things change, it’s an act of questioning that remains constant. Throughout it all, Stoppard’s characters press onward with enthusiasm and wonder at the mysteries of the world. “It’s wanting to know that makes us matter.”

In the late 18th and early 19th century, the Age of Enlightenment was making way for the Romantic era. Scientific thought, order and reason was abandoned for strong emotion, feeling and an appreciation for aesthetics. While each period in history is interesting to consider in their own right, what I find particularly fascinating is the period in between; the transition from one to the next. It is the period of “chaos” that we see in Arcadia; where what is known is no longer certain. The interesting stuff, the progress, the innovation comes when the floor all but seems to fall out from under your feet, then being able to see how one attempts to gain their footing once more.

Directing this production of Arcadia did not disappoint. I could not have asked for better people to work with or a better experience as a first time director. The cast and crew of this show have thrown themselves into the material with enthusiasm and diligence. They have risen to the challenge beautifully to tell the brilliant story you are about to see. As you sit and watch tonight’s performance I hope that we are able to make you laugh, that we are able to make you think, that we are able to make you question, but above all that you continue to consider beyond the performance how it’s that questioning of mystery, of knowledge, of life, of passion and of love that really matters.

Heather Coup, Director

Cast

  • Tomasina Coverly: Kathleen Laird
  • Septimus Hodge: Will Emory
  • Jellaby: Runjit Chandra
  • Ezra Chater: Dan Lavanga
  • Richard Noakes Mario Font
  • Lady Croom: Karen Lawrence
  • Captain Brice: Josh Canary
  • Hannah Jarvis: Caroline Schreiber
  • Chloe Coverly: Rachel Watson
  • Bernard Nightingale: Clyde Wright
  • Valentine Coverly: Calder Stembel
  • Gus/Augustus Coverly: Connor Smith

The Production Team

  • Director: Heather Cipu
  • Stage Manager: Christine Farrell
  • Producer Alexis Truuitt
  • Sound Board Operators: Madison Hartke-Weber
  • Sound Board Consultant: Eliza Kashinsky
  • Lighting Design: Roger Munter
  • Master Electrician: Jerry Dale, Jr.
  • Lighting Technician: Roger Munter
  • properties Design: Rose Hartman, Cameron Lane, Liz Sutton
  • Set Design: Cameron Lane
  • Set Construction: Rose Hartman, Cameron Lane
  • Costume Design: Ceci Albert, Lisa Brownsword
  • Make-up Consultant: Rick Hayes
  • Box Office Manager: Beth Hall
  • House Managers: Heidi Keller, Emily Sudmeier
  • Photography: Oscar Alvarez, Chuck Devine
  • Poster/Cover Art/Projections: Jennifer Reitz

Disclaimer: St. Mark’s Players provided a complimentary media ticket to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has performed in local productions, but prefers to be behind the scenes. Mike earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the Online News Association.

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