Forum: Setting the Stage on Arcadiaposted on December 9th, 2009 by Megan Bearint
I found it was essentially necessary to have a quick read of the script of Arcadia before seeing the show, which in my opinion was a smart decision. Tom Stoppard’s traditional “language” plays aren’t easy to piece apart, or put all together. I found myself perplexed with this Arcadia puzzle, but once I got into the swing of things, I was able to understand what I read, and I applied it to the visual performance.
I tip my hat first and foremost to the set designer. The stunning colors came off as traditional and antique, a clean and vibrant pleasure to the eye and senses. I enjoyed how they transformed both worlds in [the same] room. The carrying on of Thomasina and Septimus Hodge in the first act, reading papers and studying carnal embrace, was an entirely different world from the historian and the writer who followed. I very much could fall into the transition [between] the two worlds with ease and distinguish one from the other realistically.
Tom Stoppard wrote into his script the ideal structure for usage of sets and direction, and I think this was embraced as well as accomplished in the performance. I also enjoyed the connection between the two worlds, and how this was incorporated by the division of the scenes. For example, I enjoyed the movement of lights and music as soon as Septimus Hodge left the stage. This was an exciting little interlude into the “new world”, and it showed how the characters affect each other’s lives, without actually knowing each other. I really thought it was an interesting and artistic touch for Septimus Hodge to retrieve the green apple out of Hannah’s hands, and use it in his scene. You knew then and there that you were about to travel in time and collectively find another artifact in the story of the lives of the past. For a little while, I found myself lost in the story of these characters—Chloe and Valentine and the group—but then Septimus would swing in and grab my interest.
I found the portrayal of these characters creative and enjoyable. Often when reading a script or a book, I have a particular, visual image of the characters in my mind. These characters definitely fulfilled my ideal perspective, and I found [them to be] quite charming…. I found the character of Thomasina cute and comical. I felt for the awkward and quiet portrayal of Gus….
As many critics [do], you have ups and down on your personal perspective of the theater. I felt as if most of the language in the play was too heavy, or rich. I’ve learned the hard way that too rich an icing can make a soufflé sink, which I found myself [doing] toward the end of the first act—sinking. It’s definitely a play to sit up and pay attention to—with all respect to the intellectual Stoppard of course! I felt prepared by knowing the script, whereas other attendees had not. I think the discussion between Thomasina and Septimus about “spinning your pudding in either direction” or “carnal embrace is wrapping your hands around a side of beef” would have stuck out to be a little odd to me. I feel as if the language content was…so cloudy with facts and methods that I drifted in and out of focus. I found the language difficult to decode most of the time.
I enjoyed my overall experience in seeing…Arcadia in Kasser. Though it wasn’t typically my cup of tea, I did find myself intently listening and enjoying myself all the while. Sitting next to someone who had little or no knowledge of the written play, I talked about my enjoyment due to lack of sitting through “easy plays”, or something along what I would see on a normal basis.
Megan Bearint is a student at Montclair State University. This piece was written in Neil Baldwin’s fall 2009 course “The Undergraduate Dramaturgy Workshop.”