Highly Recommended **** Tonight was a very special one in the theater community. The first production on the stage in the brand new Writers Theatre in Glencoe. This new venue is remarkable in many ways. The lobby space is far greater than the old building, allowing the guests to partake of a beverage prior to the show. Parking is a bit tighter, however, they have made arrangements with the Metra lot which is just across Green Bay Road. There are still some minor adjustments to make regarding heat and cooling as many of the women in tonight’s audience were chilled to the bone. This is something that the Writers staff will have under control very soon.
Their first production is Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia” which takes us from the 19th century to modern times. The entire play takes place in an English Country Estate that is the setting for the stories that we jump through time to explore. It begins in the 19th century, where a young scholar, tutoring the children of the Coverly family, Mr. Hodge (brilliantly played by Greg Matthew Anderson) is also courting the women who visit the estate, including wives of the noble guests and poets. It is a home that is filled with secrets, affairs, rivalries and mystery.
Stoddard then brings us to modern days, same house, but now a young student has come to the house, one Bernard Nightingale (deftly handled by Scott Parkinson) along with author Hannah Jarvis ( the always delightful Kate Fry) to find the answers to many questions regarding the mysteries that were alleged to have taken place on the estate. These two are fighting for the right to dominate the other in who is brighter and there is a great deal of passion in their quest to out-do one another. The chemistry between Parkinson and Fry is amazing as they attempt to one-up each other in their parrying with words instead of weapons.
Under the sterling direction of Founder Michael Halberstam, this lengthy ( almost 3 hours with one 15 minute intermission) keeps us on our toes. One must pay very close attention to the words that Stoppard uses in order to follow the timing and story lines. There will be questions left unanswered if one does not heed my words. This I guarantee. If you snooze, you lose! This is a brilliant cast ; the always reliable Chaon Cross as Lady Croom, mother of the children being tutored. Nathan Hosner as Capt. Brice, Callie Johnson as Chloe Coverly ( appearing in the modern scenes) Allistar Sewell (playing Gus in the 19th century and Augustus in modern times), Christopher Sheard (as Valentine Coverly, who thinks he is Hannah’s fiancée), Elizabeth Stenholt as Thomasina Coverly, Rod Thomas (who keeps showing his strength in character roles) as poet Ezra Chater ,Torrey Hanson as Jellaby, the butler and Gabriel Ruiz as Richard Noakes. These characters move in and out of the set (Collette Pollard’s design is sheer magic) with great ease. In the final scenes, they intertwine as if the others do not exists at all.
The technical aspects of this production, as always at Writers is sheer perfection. Lighting (John Culbert), sound (Joshua Schmidt, who also composed the original music), costumes (Rachel Anne Healy) and props (Scott Dickens) are all handled perfectly making the production as smooth as silk. This is not a show for everyone, as it is longer than most, English accents are used and since it is two intertwining time periods, some may become confused. If you enjoy a little mystery as well as a comedy of manners, filled with innuendos, poetry, egos and heated passions, you will find this to be a high-spirited theatrical experience that will highlight the new beginning for Writer’s Theatre.
“Arcadia” will continue at Writers thru May 1st ( it is already extended from the original date) with performances as follows:
Wednesdays 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays 7:30 p.m./
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 3 and 7:30 p.m.
Sundays 2 and 6 p.m.
There will also be some Wednesday 3 p.m. matinees(check with box office or website)
Tickets start at $35 and can be purchased by calling 847-242-6000 or online at www.writertheatre.org
The theater is located in Glencoe at 325 Tudor Court
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Arcadia”