Sunday, May 29, 2011

In ‘Arcadia,’ Uncovering and Discovering One’s Past

Billy Crudup, Lia Williams, Raul Esparza and Grace Gummer at the Coverly Estate circa 1993 in "Arcadia." Photos by Carol Rosegg.


TOM Stoppard
is nimbly erudite. In “Arcadia” he sets up two worlds, about a century apart, both located in the same idyllic setting.

The modern-day inhabitants of the Coverly Estate take a fly at understanding their predecessors. Most of their historic guess work misses its mark. Some of their speculations on the past are dead on or close enough to uncover some of the brilliant and astounding activities that occurred there in 1809. (See the video at

Lady Croom (Margaret Colin) has a garden that needs cultivating in "Arcadia.

The grand house and its mangled gardens are the main characters in TS’s challenging comedy. The players stumble about, often getting their feet wet in the poorly drained and unseen outdoors. “Arcadia,” in revival at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre through 19 June, is interesting, intricate and funny.

In 1809 the aristocratic residents, particularly the doyenne Lady Croom (Margaret Colin), hired architect Richard Noakes (Byron Jennings) to redesign the gardens into a representation of the rustic so stylish at the time. The romantic Noakes installed a hermitage on the grounds.

The sighting of the hermit attracts Hannah Jarvis (Lia Williams) to explore the mysteries of Coverly. Hannah, a 20th century historian, finds herself outmaneuvered by Bernard Nightingale (Billy Crudup), a rival who discovers a Lord Byron connection to the family and the estate.

The realities of “Arcadia” rest with its dualities. It is about witty intellectuals and scholars who jump to conclusions. It is also about Septimus Hodge (Tom Riley), the sexy tutor who instructs precocious Thomasina Coverly (Bel Powley) with a detour into the fashions of the picturesque. For her part, Thomasina leaves her ancestor Valentine Coverly (Raul Esparza) – a mathematician and genius in his own right – a legacy of mathematical theories that astound him.

Thomasina Coverly (Bel Powley) is the very bright student of Septimus Hodge (Tom Riley) in Arcadia.

The complexity of “Arcadia” in no way diminishes the enjoyment a visit to the Coverly Estate in Derbyshire offers.

Among the large and expert cast are the fabulous BJ and the gifted, versatile RE. In fact, everyone gives an excellent performance. Yet, with all the brilliant luminaries in this production, it is a young newcomer, BP, who steals the show.

Visit for more information about “Arcadia.”

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