The biggest tragedy in Arcadia is the empty seats. It is the most enjoyable, most thought-provoking, best-executed play in recent University of Dallas memory.
From the first, uproariously hilarious line to the last, quiet visual, Tom Stoppard’s atemporal drama entrances. The A&E preview gave a fair account of the plot and tone you should expect; suffice it here to say that it is the kind of play that seems to have been written precisely for our institution.
Joseph Mazza and Kate Chiappe are finally promoted from guaranteed scene-stealers to bona-fide stars, and the results are brilliant. Both seem born to play their respective roles: Mazza is a perfect pseudo-Byronic hero, while Chiappe is hilarious as the young, manic genius Thomasina and touching as the older, less innocent eccentric.
The rest of the parts are as expertly cast. Tommy Riordon almost rivals Chiappe in laughs achieved as hip-shooting Byron scholar Bernard. Skyler Patton may struggle with a few lines, but regardless delivers an immensely enjoyable Hannah Jarvis. Unsurprisingly, Madeleine Robb’s typical role of the comically dominating women is excellent. Newcomers Annie Zwerneman, Aiden Malone and Seamus Young give a promising start to their drama careers, rounding out the Croom households as Chloe, Augustus/Gus and Captain Brice. Though his role is substantially less this time around, Johnny Wilder brings the same perfected shrillness that he brought to Malvolio in Twelfth Night to Mr. Chater.
Gripes are minor. Thomas Sorenson’s Valentine is only able to express the emotional range of Nicholas Cage; Plautus/ Lightning is distracting in its cartoonish fakeness.
In the after-play Q&A, two achievements were noted that bear repeating. Firstly, the play was not written for the tiny, multifaceted stage of Margaret Jonsson Theatre, yet even in the complex finale, where time collides with itself, everything is staged beautifully. Secondly, the actors, especially the four leads, go beyond the snappy repartees and intellectually engaging monologues, and manage to convey behind these thoughts very real, very complex thinkers.
No UD student has any excuse not to see this play. If you are worried that the topics in the play might be too abstruse, have no fear: The program contains both a glossary which nicely explicates the math, physics and poets one needs to understand to properly enjoy the play, and an example of the kind of before-after art that much of the play’s plot revolves around.
If you are dealing with piles of work, take a lower grade for once. It will be worth it in the long run.