Arcadia is a charming romance of the highest intellectual caliber, featuring a living, breathing, on-stage tortoise. Right from the beginning, you will find yourself immersed in the witty dialogue and guessing the age of the extraordinarily talented youngest lead, Isabel Mar, playing Thomasina. The play is the intersection between intellectual passion and romance, telling the story of two families who seem to coexist in the storied house, Arcadia, despite their separation of a few hundred years.
Arcadia is difficult to place into a genre. The play includes the full spectrum, with interpretations of carnal embrace involving “wrapping one’s arms around mutton” on one side and a candle-lit waltz with the dancer’s fate predetermined on the other. The tagline is “a witty romance,” however, I don’t feel that it would do the play justice to discount the more tragic components that will sneak up on you toward the end.
The play focuses on two different generations of a family (actually, the same turtle is in both) who lived in the same house in different time periods. The older one features a young genius girl (Mar), her only slightly less genius tutor (Trevor Young Marston), the outspoken mother and mistress (Emily Goodwin), and some of the guests of the estate, such as Ezra Chater played by Brandon Ryan. The modern Coverlys are played by Trick Danneker, Ingamar Christophersen, and Jocelyn Maher. They are accompanied by a sarcastic and empowered researcher played by Alyson Scadron Branner and her equally sarcastic, pompous counterpart, played by Even Whitfield.
The immaculately cast ensemble demonstrates the intermixing of history as both generations endure the dramas of the heart, the mysteries of science, a (sometimes misguided) passion for poetry, and the ability to feed a tortoise. Scenes of 16th century British scholars and teenagers making enormous scientific discoveries and plans for duels over women alternate with scenes of 21st century British scholars and teenagers doing in-depth research on, having clairvoyant revelations about, and engaging in heated debates over the scientific events and carnal embrace that may or may not have occurred there centuries earlier.
Though this play has been performed in a variety of capacities in a plethora of theaters, I can’t imagine it with any other cast than the one the Seattle Public Theater selected from local actors. Monologues about algebra were delivered with greater passion than I have seen monologues delivered about life and death, and when it came to romance, no words were needed.
Overall, if you have an affinity for tortoises, want to see real fire lit on-stage, have a taste for romance or have recently remarked, “I don’t think that my life has enough mathematics in it,” then this play comes highly recommended.
Seattle Public Theater
May 16 - June 8