“Arcadia” may include references to science and math. You’ve been warned.
But there’s nothing boring about the play, presented by Theatreworks, says director Caitlin Lowans.
“I would describe it as a sparkly comedy that unites gardening, literature and physics,” Lowans said. “And there’s a mystery unfolding.”
Let’s break down the 1993 play by Tom Stoppard this way: One room in an English country house. Two time periods.
Scenes jump back and forth between 1809 and present day, as the audience will be able to differentiate by costuming and objects, such as, in the modern era, a laptop. Both periods follow people living in the house and their interesting studies.
In 1809, it’s a genius teenage girl who is often studying with her tutor, a friend of the poet and politician Lord Byron. In the present, it’s a writer who is investigating a hermit who previously lived on the grounds and a professor who is researching the life of Lord Byron.
Each storyline, which gradually converge, has a woman in the lead.
“I love how we get two brilliant women at two different places in their lives who aren’t afraid of their intelligence,” Lowans said.
Full of “delicious references,” Lowans, who is the artistic director of Theatreworks, said “Arcadia” shows off the skills of the 11-member cast.
“It’s truly an actor’s play,” she said. “It’s just a big room with a table and everything else is what the actors create in their world.”
“Arcadia” won an Olivier Award, presented by the Society of London Theatre, for Best New Play in 1993 and has since won Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Revival of a Play.
Lowans said those accolades stem from, among other elements, the play being “hilarious in the way it uses language.”
There’s more to “Arcadia” than fancy words and wit, though.
“The play is about complexity and how complex the universe is and how our attraction to other people doesn’t go the way we expect it to,” Lowans said. “It uses all references as ways of exploring the difficulties of the human heart.”
So, as Lowans said, the play is more relatable than you might think at first.
“If you’ve ever loved the wrong person, or ever said a thing you never meant to say and had to deal with the consequences, then you will absolutely adore and understand the action of ‘Arcadia,’” she said. “The science shouldn’t make anyone afraid because ultimately it’s about just being a person.”