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“Arcadia” Is a Delightful Romp That Spans Centuries

"Arcadia" stars Eric Carl and Dorothy Recasner Brown (photo by Jonathan Young)

“Arcadia” stars Eric Carl and Dorothy Recasner Brown (photo by Jonathan Young)

Arcadia, now playing in Deep Dish Theater Company’s small black-box theater in what was formerly the Dillard’s end of Chapel Hill’s University Mall, is an erudite comedy, filled with mystery, plot twists, clever dialogue, and literary and scientific references. Some scholars call it Czech-born British dramatist and screenwriter Sir Tom Stoppard’s finest work; and Deep Dish offers up Arcadia as a lively, sagacious entertainment that displays the charm and beauty of the piece.

The action begins in 1809 in Sidley Park, Derbyshire, England, then slips into 1993 in the same room, and then alternates between the present of 1993 and the passage into 1812 in the past, with a brief scene in which both times occupy the same space. The complex plot involves Septimus Hodge, who was school chum of Lord Byron at Harrow and Trinity College; his tutee Thomasina, a savant whose insight into fractal theory precedes its historical reality; and in 1993 a scholar of Byron who is researching the disappearance of a hermit at Sidley Park in the early part of the 19th century. Enter a university don bent on establishing that Lord Byron spent some time at Sidley just prior to the hermit’s disappearance. Bubbling up from this cauldron of speculation is the steam of clever retorts, sexual innuendo as well as sexual awakening and sexual hijinks, and an underlying theme that chaos and order coexist and probably always will.

Ryan Brock gives a sparkling performance as Septimus Hodge, nicely contained and professorly, with an obvious concern and deep interest in his student’s impressive scholarship, and a discretion about his various dalliances which is gentlemanly. Septimus’ student Thomasina Coverly is played delightfully, with charm and grace and wit by Nicole Gabriel, making her professional debut in this show, but whom Triangle theatergoers will remember well from her powerful performance as Abigail Gersten in One Song Productions’ presentation of Denial.

Bernard Nightingale is played with sufficient bombast by Eric Carl as the overbearing, self-important don, who is so wrapped up in his theory he becomes a bit lax in his research. Dorothy Recasner Brown plays Hannah Jarvis as aloof and unmelting, an appropriate choice for the author of a best seller on Lady Caroline Lamb, Byron’s mistress, and a competent and detailed researcher. Ezra Chater, the laughably shallow poet and husband cuckolded by Hodge, is played by David Godshall, whose comedic talents abound.

Nicole Gabriel and Will Pierson co-star in "Arcadia" (photo by Jonathan Young)

Nicole Gabriel and Will Pierson co-star in “Arcadia” (photo by Jonathan Young)

Deep Dish artistic director Paul Frellick has directed this show very well, allowing the time necessary for the erudition of the script to be appreciated and still have the snappiness the repartee requires. Set designer Christa Devitt provides Deep Dish patrons with a 19th century drawing room-cum-studio that serves both time eras. Moreover, the props on the table are always appropriate for the time the action occurs.

Costume designer LeGrande Smith has satisfied a challenging task, providing the cast with clothing that captures authentically the early 19th century and the late 20th century. Wendy Spitzer nicely provides “music from a farther room.” The show is well performed by all and continues the standard of high-quality entertainment that Deep Dish Theater Company has been offering for over 10 years.

SECOND OPINION: Feb. 26th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/arcadia/Event?oid=3656951.

Deep Dish Theater Company presents ARCADIA at 7:30 p.m. March 5 and 6, 8 p.m. March 7 and 8, 2 p.m. March 9, 7:30 p.m. March 12 and 13, 8 p.m. March 14 and 15, 2 p.m. March 16, 7:30 p.m. March 19 and 20, and 8 p.m. March 21 and 22 at 201 South Estes Dr., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, at the Dillard’s end of University Mall.

TICKETS: $22 Wednesday and Thursday ($19 seniors) and $24 Friday-Sunday ($21 seniors), except all tickets are $12 at 7:30 p.m. on “Cheap-Dish-Night,” Wednesday, March 5th (but no reservations are accepted for this performance).

BOX OFFICE: 919-968-1515 or https://www.vendini.com/.

SHOW: http://www.deepdishtheater.org/productions?p=63.

NEWS RELEASE: http://www.deepdishtheater.org/news?n=123. 2013-14 SEASON: http://www.deepdishtheater.org/productions.

PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.deepdishtheater.org/, https://www.facebook.com/deepdishtheater, and https://twitter.com/deepdishtheater.

DIRECTIONS/MAP: http://www.deepdishtheater.org/location.

NOTE 1: Dramaturg Karen Blansfield will present a pre-show “Meet the Play” talk at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 7th.

NOTE 2: There will be post-performance discussions on Sunday, March 9th, with the cast and Adam McCune of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of English and Comparative Literature; and on Thursday, March 13th, with the production staff).

NOTE 3: There will be a discussion of the Deep Dish Book Selection, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 17th, in Meeting Room C of the Chapel Hill Public Library, 100 Library Dr., Chapel Hill, NC 27514. For details, click here.

OTHER TICKETS:

Arcadia (1993 play): http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/2929/arcadia (Samuel French) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcadia_%28play%29 (Wikipedia).

The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).

Study Guide: http://www.skidmore.edu/academics/theater/productions/arcadia/ (Skidmore College).

Sir Tom Stoppard (Czech-born British playwright and screenwriter): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Stoppard (Wikipedia).

Paul Frellick (Chapel Hill director): http://www.deepdishtheater.org/about (Deep Dish Theater Company bio) and https://www.facebook.com/paul.frellick (Facebook page).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story