Writer: Tom Stoppard
Director: Cheryl Faraone
Reviewer: Robert Price
You must see this show. In the time of Lord Byron, when poets might be moved to duel with pistols, Septimus instructs young Thomasina, a girl of 13 with a mathematician’s enlightened mind. She is too curious for a lady of her age just as Septimus is too curious about another man’s wife. His adept conversational fencing seems to fool everyone but Lady Groom, the mistress of the house. While this plot unfolds in the early 1800s, we are introduced to the two scholars in the present attempting to make sense of the past. Bernard has a professor’s ego as he intrudes into Hannah’s work. She has been talking with Lady Groom’s descendants to find any record she can of the hermit that lived on the grounds, while Bernard struggles to prove that Lord Byron spent time on the estate and perhaps partook in duels himself. History plays tricks on them as they search for truth, just as the people of the past try to carve their place in a changing world.
The play wrestles with science and poetry, intuition and evidence, and the unstoppable stirring of time moving forward. It is an intellectual thrill ride with humor and grace. Andrew W. Smith is a likable scoundrel as Septimus with every syllable clear as day. Caitlin Rose Duffy is Thomasina or joy incarnate, but not without her wrath. Alex Draper and Stephanie Janssen duel as Bernard and Hannah, navigating their wins and losses with delightful precision. Jackson Prince holds us rapt at attention with a subtle performance as Valentine, guiding us through the wonders of mathematics.
Few plays are held in as high esteem as Arcadia, and few companies have the talent and experience to do it justice. The cast is enormous, the text intimidating, and there is no great spectacle. Potomac Theatre Project provides an evening of theatre that transports us and captures our imagination. The acting and directing are superb, and the play ain’t bad either.
Runs until 6 August 2017