Review: 'Arcadia' and the Pursuit of Knowledge
Arcadia challenged its performers with its constant shifts between time periods, contrasted with long monologues. Student organization The Kings Players conquered this challenge and captivated their audience in a cramped theater in Midtown last week. Written by Tom Stoppard in 1993, the play highlights the connection between knowing and not knowing, past and present. Performing Arcadia takes a certain kind of fluidity and attention to detail, which the King’s Players achieved.
Arcadia takes place in both 1810-1812 and 1993. Two present day academics fiercely bicker in the same room as a tutor and his pupil playfully squabbled in years before. In the earlier time, a teenage girl, Thomasina Coverly, who studies mathematics and nature, understands concepts that were not well-known until over a hundred years later. A large table and old-fashioned props remains throughout the shift between time periods, but the characters bring out different props for past and present.
Despite the prevalence of cursing and sexual references, the words are not superfluous or out of place. The Players delivered their lines timely enough not to catch the audience off guard. Many of the Players’ English accents, especially that of Thomasina Coverly, played by Erin Alaniz (’18), were accurate. Alaniz matched her voice to the age of her 13-year-old character appropriately. The theme of the quest for knowledge was prevalent throughout the entire play, something that the King’s students relate to, an encouragement to be a bit more like the young Coverly.
The players never gave the sense that they were nervous or stumbling over their lines. Patterson Tompkins (’20), along with Elaf Jabr (’20) and Matthew Contreras (’16) were able to keep their composure when the soundtrack of a piano began to play, an unintended interruption. In addition, Alaniz and Callie Patterson (’20) were able to present a strong contrast between the girls of their ages in their respective time periods.
At times, it was tricky to be fully aware of what was happening due to long, complex monologues. Despite the challenges of Arcadia, the players retained the attention and interest of the audience.
The single scene setting was much needed to help the play maintain focus, throughout the changes between the different time periods. The live turtle, which crawled around the table for the entire play, represented long lasting suffering and the inevitable death that comes for all. While a small part, the turtle leaves one with something to ponder and, hopefully, a changed perspective on life.
The lesson one can learn is found in the quote on the playbill, “[come] to terms with the inevitability of death, as we all are.”