Thursday, March 03, 2011

Arcadia on Broadway

During the play, I kept thinking to myself: "I could say on Facebook that the play is performed with much vigor." This says a few things, I think. It mostly says something unpleasant about the way I--or maybe we--have begun thinking about our experiences: as status updates. It also says something about the play, or perhaps more specifically, my reaction to it. That I was not engaged.

Something about Tom Stoppard's work is beyond me. I find his plays extremely frustrating. I am not a stupid person, but I can never understand what is going on in them. I literally cannot understand their plots. Two hours into it and I am still wondering why any of this matters? I go to Wikipedia to figure them out. I always feel like his characters are frozen in the space of the play, and when it ends, they will also end. They never feel like real people to me. So...the tutor is really the hermit, after all? And he gets embarrassed in the newspaper? That's it?

The most exciting moment for me came when Hodge, the tutor, sets a letter on fire and places it on a silver tray where it burns away to ash during his conversation with Lady Croom. Real Fire!! I wanted the letter to catch the whole table ablaze, and the actors to go screaming into the wings and we'd all trample each other to get to the doors. I don't really want this to happen. But I wanted something more exciting than what was happening on stage. (Is this unfair of me?)

All this said, the actor's are really performing with much vigor. Billy Crudup is doing his cocky/smart/charming/asshole thing he's really good at, Raúl Esparza is doing the brooding miserable thing he put to perfect, brilliant, transformative use in John Doyle's 2006 revival of Company...only in a more lazy way here. Bel Powley, as Thomasina, is so marvelously fun to watch--funny and sharp and honest and generous. The rest of them are, well, fine. At several points, you get a sense that the actor's weren't given much blocking and are asked to just wander around and indicate their own frustration through their physicality.

Oh well, can't win 'em all.


Frank Anthony Polito said...

OMG! You took the words out of my mouth. As someone who holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing, imagine how frustrated I feel. I know that I'm "supposed" to like Stoppard, but aside from his farce On the Razzle which is a re-telling of The Matchmaker/Hello, Dolly! -- which I both know well and love -- I can never understand a thing that's going on in his plays. For my birthday one year, Craig took me to see The Invention of Love... I literally fell asleep. (The fact that I had two martinis before the show didn't help, but still...)

Craig said...

Frank just told me about your post and I have to say, "I agree." I am a classically trained actor (Elizabethan/Jabobean), so I am used to difficult text, but I have always found Stoppard's plays boring and cerebral. The man needs an editor. He is obviously very smart and does his research, but engaging? Not really. I took Frank to see The Invention Of Love for his birthday years ago, and he fell asleep! I am happy you shared your thoughts. You are not alone.

Mel said...

I saw Arcadia last weekend and loved it, though I must admit to feeling less sure at the end that I knew what it was about than I did during the middle. That's not a great feeling! I certainly followed it much better than I did Rock and Roll. I was very engaged, though, because I think the dialog is brilliantly hilarious. And I also nerded out about some of the math and science discussion. The highlight for me was definitely Thomasina, though. That actress was brilliant. And Crudup and Esparza always deliver. I was actually thinking of going to see this again with my math-nerd husband.

Mel said...

Also, I went to high school and college in Tennessee, though I live in Boston now. I miss Awful House so much!