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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Arcadia

Also see Susan's review of Legacy of Light

Arcadia
Erin Weaver and Cody Nickell
The exquisite Folger Theatre in Washington may be the perfect setting for Arcadia, Tom Stoppard's reflection on mathematics, history, landscape architecture, and the inability of people ever to truly understand the past. Fortunately, Aaron Posner's nuanced production lives up to the surroundings, with a cast well equipped to bring life to Stoppard's witty digressions and lyrical flights.

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 entanglement—what 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.

Folger Theatre
Arcadia
May 5th June 14th
By Tom Stoppard
Ezra Chater: Cooper D'Ambrose
Richard Noakes: Stephen D'Ambrose
Captain Brice: Jared Michael Delaney
Jellaby: Michael Glenn
Bernard Nightingale: Eric Hissom
Septimus Hodge: Cody Nickell
Lady Croom: Suzanne O'Donnell
Gus/Augustus Coverly: Benjamin Schiffbauer
Chloe Coverly: Margo Seibert
Valentine Coverly: Peter Stray
Hannah Jarvis: Holly Twyford
Thomasina Coverly: Erin Weaver
Directed by Aaron Posner
201 E. Capitol St., S.E.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-544-7077 or www.folger.edu


Photo: Carol Pratt


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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