Periscope Depth

et in arcadia ego

Arcadia: Tom Stoppard is a favorite among directors. Partly because his plays are really good and very popular, of course, but also because they’re always deep and intricate. Arcadia is Stoppard at his most intellectual: a play about mathematical discoveries, debates over scholarship, the death of Enlightenment and the birth of Romanticism. It takes place in an English manor home over a span of two hundred years, entwining the Coverleys of 1809 (plus their guests and tutors) with the Coverleys of 2011 (plus the scholars studying them).

Bad Habit Productions’ Arcadia is well cast in every role (as BHP shows tend to be), but a few actors in particular deserve notice. David Lutheran, as doomed poet Ezra Chater, steals every scene he’s in with just a few perplexed facial expressions and twitches of an outrageous mustache. Sarah Bedard pulls off the role of Hannah Jarvis, itinerant Byron scholar, with deft balance, portraying a woman who is confident and independent without falling into the cliches of being bitchy, frigid or flighty. And Alycia Sacco is captivating as Thomasina Coverley, vanishing entirely into the role with a mastery of precocious teenage mannerism and cadence. She’s a well-bred girl who thinks a lot of herself, yet is still cleverer than she knows. Your heart breaks for her innocence.

BHP staged Arcadia in the round in the Wimberly Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts. It helps thrust the audience into the drawing-room atmosphere of the play, which lends certain scenes a needed intimacy. But it also results in some difficult staging. In the first act I found myself almost unable to see the action due to the people sitting in front of me. That’s something of a novelty at six foot five; I offer retroactive and preemptive apologies to anyone who’s suffered so at my hands. There’s also a piano offstage, which plays an incidental role in certain scenes, that was nevertheless distracting.

At only five years old, BHP has already put together some very true productions of inventive plays. Arcadia is another great show in their repertoire. Definitely worth seeing.