Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Legacy of Light
Arcadia takes place in the great hall of Sidley Park, the ancestral home of the Coverly family, but the events depicted alternate between 1809 and the present. In the earlier era, 13-year-old Thomasina Coverly (Erin Weaver) astounds her tutor, Septimus Hodge (Cody Nickell), with her precocious knowledge of geometry and physics; meanwhile, contemporary scholar Hannah Jarvis (Holly Twyford) researches the history of the estate's gardens, and Bernard Nightingale (Eric Hissom) examines the possible link between Lord Byron and Ezra Chater (Cooper D'Ambrose), a pretentious minor poet and visitor to Sidley.
Stoppard is exceedingly clever, of course, but the play is no dry evocation of scientific theories and mathematical theorems. As Thomasina seeks an equation that reveals the truths of nature, she also tries to navigate the pathways of desire and emotional entanglementwhat another character calls "the attraction that Newton left out." Septimus similarly tries to establish contact with other people, sometimes to a farcical degree, and the modern-day academics seem unable to connect to each other and the people around them.
Weaver sparkles as a young woman with utter confidence in her perceptions, while Twyford, one of Washington's most accomplished actresses, is comfortable as a prickly scholar determined to protect her discoveries and, by extension, herself. Peter Stray is quietly heartbreaking as one of the contemporary Coverlys, who fades into the background next to Hissom's grandstanding Bernard.
The Folger stage has two permanent columns that sometimes make scenic design difficult, but Daniel Conway's design incorporates them as part of his closely observed vision of a public room in a great English country house. Thom Weaver's lighting design is understated and naturalistic, while Kate Turner-Walker's costumes delineate character among the aristocratic Coverlys, the foppish Bernard, and the no-nonsense Hannah.