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Arcadia



 
It will come as a surprise to some audiences that A Noise Within, our Classical Theatre Company, has opened its 25th Anniversary season with a play from the latter half of the 20th Century -- hardly a classical period of time.  However, when Arcadia by Tom Stoppard first surfaced in 1993, critics hailed the play as an instant classic.

Deftly intertwining physics with themes of human life, Stoppard shows how our messy lives conform to natural laws of which we may not be aware. His playwriting has often confused spectators, all the while still delighting them with the sort of Rubik’s Cube puzzles that he produces for the stage. 

Luckily for our audiences, Geoff Elliott directs his fine cast clearly and carefully, so that the distinct threads of Stoppard’s revelations shine through, propelling us from past (1809) to present, sort of  (let’s face it: we’re more than 20 years away from 1993).

The considerable humor in the piece comes from the glaring misreading of information from the past, as flamboyant Bernard Nightingale (ANW resident artist Freddie Douglas) infers murder when there was none and Hannah Jarvis (ANW’s Susan Angelo) thinks she’s found a real hermit, when it is only an addition painted onto an architectural sketch by young Thomasina (Megan Ruble) mathematical genius from the 19th century.

Representing this volatile period transitioning from the more stringent 18th into the adventurous 19th century, Ruble portrays the precocious Thomasina with stirring longing. Her tutor, the adventurous Septimus Hodge (Rafael Goldstein), exemplifies a break-down in social correctness, befriending the infamous (and unseen) Lord Byron while conducting multiple sexual encounters in this one household. One Ezra Chater (played by an hilarious Jeremy Rabb) infiltrates the family, writing bad poetry while providing his voluptuous (and also unseen) wife as another conquest for Hodge. But the star of that first section just may be the live turtle, a scene-stealer if there ever was one.

Juxtaposed against such historical turmoil in a changing society, the Coverlys, modern occupants of the venerable Sidley Manor, serve as counterpoints in a battle between academic writers. Hannah Jarvis (ANW’s Susan Angelo) has come to research the mystery of Sidley’s hermitage, while Freddie Douglas tries to show that Lord Byron probably killed poor Chater in a duel.

Set against a soaring bank of windows in neo-classical style by designer Frederica Nascimento, the traditional to romantic evolution is accentuated by wild natural scenes depicted on adjoining doors and backings (painted by Orlando de la Paz). Authentic costumes designed by Leah Piehl orient us in time; while lighting by Ken Booth and delicate sound and music by Martin Carrillo tantalize our senses. 

PHOTO BY Craig Schwartz: Freddie Douglas as Bernard Nightingale and Susan Angelo as Hannah Jarvis square off in Arcadia at A Noise Within.

Arcadia performs in repertory with The Maids and The Imaginary Invalid through November 20th, 2016,  at A Noise Within, 3352 East Foothill Blvd., Pasadena 91107. See www.anoisewithin.org for complete schedule. Tickets from $44.00 with Student Rush and Group rates available. Phone (626) 356-3100 (ext. 1) or online at www.anoisewithin.org.