Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review of Arcadia at New Leaf Theatre

Once upon a time, I went to a show and it was called Arcadia. It took place in two times. It is the same place only in different time periods: the time that we are in right now and Jane Austen's time. It is about two things. It is about this girl Thomasina (Hilary Williams) and her tutor Septimus (Billy Fenderson)and how nice they are to each other. She is working on math; she is like a mathematician. She has discovered a cool kind of math that helps you learn how to make a leaf. Only it is more math-y than just making a leaf. There are three love triangles that the tutor is in. The tutor is in love with the lady of the house (Saren Nofs-Snyder), and her husband, of course, is in love with her. And Chater (Joe Zarrow) is also in love with Mrs. Chater and the tutor was found in carnal embrace with Mrs. Chater--which to my knowledge is gross. The third triangle is Septimus, Lady Croom, and Thomasina. They both like Septimus. He likes both of them but one of them in not as romantic a way as Lady Croom. And in the other time period, they are trying to figure out what happened in the house. Bernard (Dan Granata) thinks that Chater was killed there by Byron. Byron was a poet, but he also killed pigeons. And Hannah (Marsha Harman)is trying to find out who the hermit was and then once she hears from Valentine (Pat King) she wants to learn more about Thomasina and what discoveries she'd made in math and stuff like that. There are only two love triangles in this time period. There is Bernard and Chloe (Kaitlyn Griggs) and Hannah; Bernard is the center of that triangle. Actually, one of them is not a love triangle; it is a love square. It is Bernard, Hannah, Valentine, and Gus (Scott Ray Merchant).

When you get to the theater, you get to look for stuff that you'll get to find in the show. You get to look at stuff that will give you clues about mysteries in the show. For example, there was this game book that shows how many animals you've shot. You could find Byron and how many things he shot. And I also really liked the math book. There was this really cool math book that was Thomasina's math book, and then when you looked at it, it showed the cool leaf-making thing. I think you should start looking when the intermission is going on, because then everything makes much more sense. You also get to have a tea party. There is a tea party before that is really awesome. They have little cute biscuits, and they have packages of tea, and they have things to sweeten your tea, like sugar cubes. And the tea comes in little cute cups. Having to find stuff makes the performance more exciting because then you are thinking "Maybe there is something I can look for outside that will help me find a clue to something that I like in the play."

I really thought the first scene was funny. It makes you feel good and gets you absorbed in the fun, and then, when we get to the sad parts that are just scattered around at points you are not expecting, you feel sad, but then when it gets to a funny part you feel happy. And then that helps you forget about that sad thing that is going to happen--or has happened. When you walk in at the beginning you see Septimus and Thomasina sitting in chairs. Thomasina is doing math, of course. And Septimus, not of course, is looking at Chater's new poem. Thomasina asks "Septimus, What is carnal embrace?" and then it starts to get funny because he says "it is the practice of throwing one's arms around a side of beef." That is the terriblest explanation I have ever heard because carnal embrace is much grosser than throwing your arms around a side of meat but much less weird. It is not gross to everybody; it is basically just gross to children or young people. I also really liked Noakes (Michael Mercier) because this is when he started always giving his hand to Lady Croom and she never took it, which always makes him sad--very very sad. She would never take it because she doesn't like Noakes very much because she thinks he's dumb because he wants to make a hermitage where there was no hermitage because then he can paint it and pretend it is an old hermitage and in that time that was called being "picturesque." I don't really understand the people in that time because they have such weird ideas about what is picturesque and what is not.

I really liked the scene where Bernard said his speech. It was a funny and not true speech, but it really cracked me up a lot because Hannah kept interrupting at different parts and Bernard was getting angry with her in a funny way because he was like growling in a funny way, and I just thought it was really awesome. But then Chloe stopped being so complimentary and would yell "Shut up!" at Hannah. That was a little bit funny because she had such a high voice that it was hard to imagine such a nice girl saying shut up to somebody. Valentine and Gus were kind of like Fred and George Weasley, Ron's brothers from Harry Potter because they had the same kind of spunk and they were really funny. One of my favorite parts was when Valentine was feeding Lightning the Turtle and then Bernard said something along the lines of, "Could you please start listening to me now?" And then Valentine said "It's his lunch time!"  I thought that was very funny because he's feeding a turtle in the middle of an important speech. It shows you that Valentine is loyal to animals and he doesn't like Bernard--at least not very much.

I really liked the scene at the end when Thomasina and Septimus start dancing a waltz and it is right before something bad is going to happen. It is just really touching; it was very interesting and sad, but awesome too because you know that one of the characters' last moments was a happy one. The people from our time period are also waltzing at the exact same time. It was interesting because it feels like you are in both time periods at the same time. It is like time machines, only better. I think Tom Stoppard put these two different time periods in the exact same scene together to tell us that Jane Austen's time period was not very different from ours. The different time periods both have waltzing, the same kinds of math, and love. And I got to dance in it. At the end they chose me to come up and dance with Gus, and it was awesomely fun. I think the director, Jessica Hutchinson, wanted the audience to know they were also in the show. You aren't just watching. You are a character in the show.

People who would like the show are people that like poetry, math, and embracing meat. Arcadia feels like you are actually time-traveling. When you feel like you are time-traveling, it is because you have a good director and good actors. People should go see this show because it is fun, makes you want to learn more things, and is bittersweet.

Photos: Tom McGrath


floodtide2 said...

Ada is a genius. I'm an actor who has done "Arcadia" twice and she has taught me things about the play I've never noticed.

ASC said...

One of my best friends is an actor in this show. I used to live in Chicago, but now I live in New Orleans. I have seen almost all of her other shows. This review makes me want to think about flying back to Chicago just to see this show. Thanks for posting it!