What happened in 1809?
‘Arcadia’ is a thought-provoking dive into the unknown
Original Play by Tom Stoppard
Directed by Crystal Su ’22
Kresge Little Theater
Performed Oct. 8, 9, and 10
In 1809, a precocious 13-year-old girl sits opposite her tutor at a dining room table that is scattered with thick stacks of books and a curiously perched turtle. She poses a question: what is “carnal embrace”? Her tutor’s deflection: prove Fermat’s Last Theorem. As the opening scene of Life on Stage Theatre’s (LOST) most recent production, Arcadia, this first interaction perfectly encapsulates the tone of this fascinating dramedy that uses math and science to explore an overarching theme of the known and unknown, of order and chaos.
Arcadia centers around two stories that take place in the same house: one in 1809 that explores the curiosity of young prodigy Thomasina Coverly (Leela Fredlund ’24), urged on by her tutor Septimus Hodge (Jose Soto ’24), and the tribulations of adult life that circle around them; the other in present day that follows professor Bernard Nightingale (Tian Lin ’23) and author Hannah Jarvis (Montse Garza ’22) as they argue about what transpired in 1809. In these two timelines, ideas about history, science, and mathematics are intertwined in a tragic history that is unveiled throughout the course of the play.
LOST’s production of Arcadia executes a great blend of tones: the dramatic narrative in 1809, the philosophical interpretations of algebraic discoveries, and the witty comedy that made the whole audience laugh at the word “iterative.” Despite no setting changes throughout the three hours of the play, the cast makes great use of its props — among them include a turtle, books and letters that appear across the timelines, and easels to draw live in front of the audience.
Additionally, LOST’s exceptional cast shines on stage, bringing each character to life with a certain charm. For the cast in 1809, Fredlund encompasses the blooming curiosity of a young teenager, while Soto gives charisma to his character’s morally grey actions. Jellaby (Andi Liu ’25), Ezra Chater (Shannon Weng ’22), Richard Noakes (Emiliano Altuzar ’24), Lady Croom (Eugeniya Artemova ’24), and Captain Brice (Emily Fan ’23) as the supporting characters help carry the playful banter throughout the night.
For the present, Lin’s audacious portrayal of the melodramatic Bernard always had the audience laughing. Opposite Lin was often Garza, whose snarky and sarcastic delivery brought forth the amusing chemistry between her character and Lin’s. Both the actors of Valentine (Shardul Chiplunkar ’22) and Chloe (Jessica Knapp ’22) brought great comedic timing to the stage, between witty one liners and hilarious flirtations that got the audience laughing right away. Special applause must be given to the actor of Augustus (Theo Cucu ’22), who conveyed the feelings of a mostly mute role purely through body language and had much of the audience sympathetic to his character.
Arcadia was a wonderful display of the talents of LOST in their abilities to bring characters to life and reel the audience into the story, all the while using the stage as a platform to ponder how, as stated in the directors’ note, “we must always make our way forward, even if… it feels like everything in the world is against us.”