Arcadia, back on Broadway for the first time since 1995, is a heady, aching thrill of a tragicomedy. Part historical-literary mystery, part academic satire, Tom Stoppard's time-traveling masterwork is, above all else, a ravishing romance -- a great love story, really -- between the worlds of the mind and the heart. See it when you're not tired, and try to sit close. The production's acoustics are not brilliant. Stoppard is...Director David Leveaux's celebrated English revival, mostly recast for the Broadway import, is visually lean and emotionally exuberant.
ARCADIA Broadway Reviews
Reviews of Arcadia on Broadway. See what all the critics had to say and see all the ratings for Arcadia including the New York Times and More...
The acting could hardly be better. (While I'm loathe to make direct comparisons, personally I preferred this cast to the original production's.) Riley could have come right out of a Jane Austen novel; he's witty, dashing, and completely crushable (a very important plot point). Williams is wonderfully prickly and has terrific chemistry with both Crudup and Raúl Esparza, who plays Valentine, the eccentric mathematician descendant of Thomasina. Crudup — who made his Broadway debut as Septimus, then won a 2007 Tony in Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia — appears to be acting in overdrive; perhaps he's just excited to be in a Stoppard play without being stuck in the 19th century. But even with an over-the-top Crudup, it's still a pretty fantastic evening.
Sex hangs over Arcadia like a fine English fog, and personally, I’d have preferred it even thicker. Nothing sets off Stoppard’s crystalline intellect like a nice, rude intrusion of carnality and folly. But Leveaux has directed his cast members to turn inward, and perhaps that’s ultimately the better choice. I admit to being a little flummoxed by Crudup’s Bernard; he’s playing a character more or less alien to American audiences, the flibbertigibbet rake, and he bridges the gap with doses of downcast American irony and tics that sometimes come close to clowning. But his approach won me over by Act Two, when Bernard’s limitations as a person and a character come into fuller view. Ditto Williams’ chilly Hannah and Powley’s avid child-prodigy Thomasina — they seem immovable in their typologies until late in the play, when the clockwork clicks into place.
Although many truly witty, intellectually detailed considerations of languages and landscapes and thermodynamics are developed, they wouldn’t be much more than parlor games without the sensual, mutually appreciative energy that these performers exchange. In this “Arcadia” “wanting to know” gloriously becomes a full-blown, red-blooded appetite.
Crudup, who originated the role of the tutor on Broadway in 1995, delivers a quite brilliant portrayal of the weasellike university don desperate to find a Lord Byron connection and burnish his credentials. Esparza, as a graduate student of mathematics who focuses on grouse population, has taken a quieter role and made it heartbreaking.
The revival’s design aspects are handsome – Donald Holder’s lighting nicely eases the transitions in time – while composer Corin Buckeridge’s piano music adds greatly to the show’s increasing wistfulness in mood. Keeping the play’s underlying emotions rather on the cool side, Leveaux grievously errs by usually pacing the conversations at a hasty clip. No doubt the director knows the play very well but he should not assume that American audiences can follow its British and Stoppardian intricacies quite so easily.
Tom Stoppard's eloquent play "Arcadia" operates much like the iterated algorithm graphs of which it speaks. Individual dots randomly appear, until gradually a shape (e.g., meaning) is revealed. Further, these dots often appear due to understated moments or quiet subtextual inferences. This means that to be successful, the play must be performed with the nuance and precision of a finely conducted piece of orchestral music. Unfortunately, despite several topflight turns, director David Leveaux's production is just fuzzy enough to keep us out of "Arcadia."
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.
Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia" is witty, erudite and cunningly structured. David Leveaux's revival, which opened on Broadway last night, looks handsome, and its cast, including Billy Crudup and Raúl Esparza, does fine, nuanced work. But boy, is the show tedious.
The production is not without rewards, but for a play of this complexity to land both intellectually and emotionally, it requires a seamless ensemble of actors who really listen to one another. That's too infrequently the case with this uneven cast.
"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.
Enough about "Spider-Man" already—Tom Stoppard is back on Broadway! Only time will tell whether "Arcadia" is Mr. Stoppard's masterpiece, but it isn't premature to call it one of the key English-language plays of the postwar era, and even in a staging that is less than satisfactory, it makes a rich and affecting impression. Now for the bad news: David Leveaux's revival of "Arcadia," which was originally mounted in London two years ago with a different cast, isn't much better than adequate. When you're talking about a high-profile revival of a great play, good enough won't cut it.