Behind every cuckold, there’s a ....

Going to a Tom Stoppard play is akin to taking a refresher course in Western Civ—with punch lines thrown in. Big ideas and literary tag lines, scientific theories and metaphysical musings fly past at the speed of lightning.

Lightning, it turns out, is also the name of the box turtle (nee Plautus) who provides a clue to the literary mystery that fuels the plot of Arcadia, Stoppard’s award-winning 1993 comedy. As the action jumps between 1809 and the present, the turtle—along with love letters, notebooks of algorithms, garden plans, game records, and miniature dahlias—gets called into play as the present-day characters try to prove or disprove that Lord Byron cuckolded and killed a minor poet he’d possibly met at Sibley Park.

The final production of Court Theatre’s 2006-07 season, Arcadia, directed by Court artistic director Charles Newell, is both illuminating and luminous. Stoppard’s elaborate, iterating, and intersecting wordplay takes place in the library of a 19th-century English country estate, designed by Matthew York with classic simplicity: a circular parquetry floor patterned with its own arcs and intersections, a Chippendale library table and bookshelf, two halos of crown molding overhead. The characters pose, cavort, accuse, argue, and waltz against a black backdrop that suggests the play’s themes of entropy and death. ...Et in Arcadia ego.

Arcadia, in an extended run, can be seen at Court through June 17.


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Photos (left to right): Precocious pupil Thomasina Coverly (Bethany Caputo) listens to tutor Septimus Hodge (Grant Goodman)—a schoolmate of Lord Byron who shares the poet’s rakish ways; two rakes and a cuckold: Septimus and Captain Brice (Keith D. Gallagher, left) both know the wife of would-be poet Ezra Chater (Raymond Fox); fast-forward to the present: writer Hannah Jarvis (Mary Beth Fisher) and Valentine Coverly (Erik Hellman) present literary sleuth Bernard Nightingale (Kevin McKillip, center) with proof that he’s taken a wrong turn.

Photos by Michael Brosilow.

June 6, 2007