Broadway Review Roundup: ARCADIA

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The new Broadway production of Tom Stoppard's ARCADIA, directed by David Leveaux, opened March 17 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre (243 West 47th Street). Tickets for this limited engagement are on sale through Sunday, June 19, 2011.

The limited engagement stars Margaret Colin, Billy Crudup, Raúl Esparza, Glenn Fleshler, Grace Gummer, Edward James Hyland, Byron Jennings, Bel Powley, Tom Riley, Noah Robbins, David Turner and Lia Williams.

ARCADIA arrives on Broadway from the West End where this production became an instant sold out hit in 2009 and was deemed "Stoppard's most brilliant play" (The Observer), "one of the most exquisite plays of the 20th century" (The Independent), and "sexy, sophisticated, and killingly funny." (The Evening Standard). Did it receive the same warm welcome on Broadway? Find out here!


Ben Brantley, The New York Times: I encourage you to feel the heat rising from the stage of the Ethel Barrymore Theater, where a half-terrific revival of Mr. Stoppard's entirely terrific "Arcadia" opened on Thursday night...if this "Arcadia" lacks the uniform surface sparkle it had when I saw it (with a different cast) in London in 2009, it has acquired something more important: an emotional depth, viscerally rooted, to support its intellectual shimmer.

Scott Brown, NY Magazine: David Leveaux's exquisite if ever-so-slightly muted revival of Arcadia -- Tom Stoppard's 1993 masterpiece about sex, literature, epistemology, sex, landscaping, sex, the second law of thermodynamics, and the tantalizingly unrequited romance between mind and body -- both charms and challenges its audience...seldom has a more romantic finale been more rationally, stealthily staged - the impact sneaks up on you.

David CoteNY1: Many people call "Arcadia" their favorite Stoppard. Indeed, it is surprisingly accessible and affecting. But the play doesn't work with anything less than a great cast...more than half the actors are miscast, from both sides of the pond. "Arcadia" is a play with marvelous potential to amuse, delight and inspire intellectual discussion late into the night, but this misjudged revival doesn't really crack the equation.

David RooneyThe Hollywood Reporter: The ideas leap off the stage in Tom Stoppard's multilayered 1993 play, but in David Leveaux's stubbornly unaffecting production, his ensemble keeps pace with the intellectual dexterity while under-serving the material's heart...in order for us to feel something for the characters, the actors must suggest the passions behind all the theorizing. Only half of Leveaux's cast is up to that task.

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: This beguiling production of what Stoppard has called "a thriller and a romantic tragedy with jokes" is beautifully knit by Leveaux and led by some wonderful performances. This is, without doubt, not a play to watch passively. It takes as much energy as it gives, demanding at least a passing understanding of, say, Fermat's theorem and chaos theory. Even so, the ideas themselves are not as important as the search for knowledge, or, as one character says, "It's wanting to know that makes us matter. Otherwise, we're going out the way we came in."

Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal: You don't have to be a physicist, much less a philosopher, to see what Mr. Stoppard is up to, so long as "Arcadia" is staged and the lines spoken with complete clarity and correct emphasis. This, alas, is where Mr. Leveaux and his cast go wrong. Time and again Mr. Stoppard's punch lines go astray or get thrown away, and the trouble starts as soon as the curtain goes up: Ms. Powley speaks her lines in a thickly mannered accent that might work for an English audience but serves on Broadway as a high bar to immediate comprehension [and] other members of the cast are wrestling with related problems.

Joe Dziediamowicz, Daily News: On the plus side, Williams brings believability and ample humor to her role, and Riley is perfection. He provides a calm and steady-beating heart, while at the same time hinting at the heat burning below Septimus' cool surface.  Less successful is Powley, who has a high-pitched voice that cuts like a serrated knife and obscures her lines. Margaret Colin, as her landscape-obsessed mother, tends to swallow words, too.

Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg: Stoppard's dazzling 1993 meditation on lust, thermodynamics and horticulture couldn't be timelier or more poignant: His young genius considers the breakdown of the universe from a child's point of view with the same wide-eyed horror we may be feeling as we watch events unfold in Japan.

Linda Winer, Newsday: Be not afraid of the chatter about geometry, the squabbling about Newtonian physics and English landscape architecture, about chaos theory and obscure romantic poets and, yes, something called iterated algorithms."Arcadia," back on Broadway for the first time since 1995, is a heady, aching thrill of a tragicomedy.

Michael Sommers, NJ Newsroom: Esparza is appropriately intense as unromantic Valentine but rattles away too quickly to be thoroughly understood. Colin, however, takes her time as grand Lady Croom and is very funny for doing so. Crudup (who created the role of Septimus in the memorable 1995 American premiere) invests the glib Bernard with a smug quality that pays off very nicely when his literary theory explodes in his face.

Sarah Montegue, WNYC: Stoppard always lays his meta messages out on the table, where, like Thomasina's lessons, we are meant to pick them up and make sense of them to complete the play's circuitry, if you will. So there is a tortoise-and a hare just in case you didn't get the part about time and relativity-and as the play's action shifts back and forth between two centuries, we are made to realize that the lives of one set of characters is completed by the lives of the other.

Robert Feldberg, Bergen Report: Arcadia, originally presented in New York in 1995, is one of the most entertaining plays ever written, and, happily, it's gotten a vital, high-spirited production in the revival that opened Thursday night at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

Melissa Rose Bernardo, Entertainmet Weekly: If Arcadia weren't a play, it could be a mystery. (Really. Stoppard did write an Oscar-winning Best Picture - Shakespeare in Love - so who's to say he couldn't pen a best-selling whodunit?) Every subplot is carefully laid, each tiny clue strategically placed like a bread crumb in a forest. And the things that sound the most trivial - like one of Thomasina's lines bits about the stirring of jam into rice pudding - turn out to be precisely the opposite. The acting could hardly be better.

Scott Brown, New York Magazine: David Leveaux's exquisite if ever-so-slightly muted revival of Arcadia -- Tom Stoppard's 1993 masterpiece about sex, literature, epistemology, sex, landscaping, sex, the second law of thermodynamics, and the tantalizingly unrequited romance between mind and body -- both charms and challenges its audience.

Jonathan Mandell, Faster Times: Arcadia is the kind of play that attracts would-be intellectuals, perhaps in part owing to the sophistication of its craftsmanship and its references to high-toned concepts like Newtonian physics, entropy, thermodynamics, Fermat's theorem and chaos theory - or maybe just because the characters speak in posh English accents.

Erik Haagensen, Backstage: Leveaux's staging was done first in London, and it shows in the assured performances of the three cast holdovers. Tom Riley is a dashing and unflappable Septimus, equal parts withering wit and full-blooded sensuality while possessing an honest and open heart. He also shares great chemistry with Bel Powley, who is Thomasina. The radiant Powley burrows to the core of Stoppard's "uncomplicated girl," emphasizing her directness and fearlessness. In the present, Lia Williams dominates as the caustic, controlled, overachieving Hannah, who sublimates her depth of feeling to a determined rationality.

David Cote, Time Out NY: Stoppard piles his dramaturgical table with so much food for thought and sparkling wit, you might mistakenly think it can survive a middling cast. Shuttling between 1809 and the present day, Arcadia covers acres of intellectual territory. Rival lit crits Nightingale and Jarvis try to discover whether or not Lord Byron stayed at Sidley Park, and discern the connections among Byron's former classmate, tutor Septimus Hodge (Tom Riley), a duel thought to have been fought between Chater and Byron, and a hermit who lived and died on the grounds. Stoppard works in young Thomasina's prophetic proofs and some lovely speeches on the tension between nature and art, thinking and feeling, and classical and romantic aesthetics. Arcadia is a play with marvelous potential to amuse, delight and stir the brain, but this misjudged revival doesn't really crack the equation.

 

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