The Enlightenment Takes the Stage

  From the moment the curtain is lifted, nothing can prepare a theatergoer for “?Arcadia.” The play consists of a nearly three hour-long juxtaposition of the past and present in the era of an Enlightenment-overturned London. The audience is immediately introduced to a bright cast of unique ?characters.

The line-up of the historical setting includes Lady Croom (played by Margaret ?Colin, who has been on the CW11 “Gossip Girl” series), her daughter Thomasina Croom ?(Bel Powley) and the charming tutor Septimus Hodge (Tom Riley). Their ?modern-day counterparts feature the hilarious Bern Nightingale (Billy Crudup), ?the scientist Valentine Coverly (Raul Esparza) and the writer Hannah Jarvis ?(Lia Williams). Both time periods offer their strengths and weaknesses in that ?those in attendance were more inclined to laugh when the former was on stage. ?However, they equally deliver an empowering performance overall in understanding the ?meaning of life.

The play showed potential for being a well-rounded classic but some details leave room for improvement. “Arcadia” opens with Croom being given a ?lesson by Hodge on the meaning of “carnal embrace.” Clever and witty jokes tickled ?the funny bones of the predominantly mature audience, however some may have ?gotten lost in the sharp, rapid and English accent-heavy dialogue.

The show required the utmost attention, especially during heated debates over science and philosophy. ?Those who mentally blinked might have been in danger of having crucial ?information to understanding the plot fly over their heads. Momentum was another flaw in the show.

Once the play reverts back to “old” London, the scene would elicit frequent laughs from the crowd. As the transition was made to modern times, a few snoozing heads bobbing could be noticed. Arcadia did leave a lot to be desired. The actors’ talents were undeniable, although some were more loved than others. The chemistry among the cast enhanced the scenes, making the display of emotions evident and necessary for the situation at hand, whether it was rummaging through historical books to make sense of ?the mystery or waltzing after a significant discovery. The simple, unchanging setting ?of a rectangular table in an elegant home and the characters’ costumes were used ?to their advantage, indicating the change in time periods.

The most artistic scene is the closing where the past literally imitates ?the present and the modern characters match the actions of the older cast ?exquisitely. The most refreshing aspect of “Arcadia” is its ability to encourage a quest for ?knowledge, which overshadows its theatrical flaws. Each character is immersed in a mission to find something meaningful in order to fulfill their passion for learning, which offers a chance for the audience to relate no matter the age.

If looking for a light-hearted play that does not require all of one’s energy to understand, consider another alternative; “Arcadia” is the perfect show for those with inquisitive minds. A slight understanding of theorems and Newton’s theory is a plus, but ultimately an appreciation for life’s lessons is required.