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The Carletonian

Arcadia: Traveling to the past on stage

<om May 20 to May 22, the members of the Experimental Theatre Board brought to life a play by Tom Stoppard in Little Nourse Theatre, in which the past and the present merge, imagination challenges science and the timelessness of love is emphasized.  Arcadia, originally written in 1993, was directed by Alex Fisher ’10, who was supported by a dedicated and proficient cast and crew.

The play depicted a group of characters living in the twentieth century trying piece together the past of a family that lived in the same house almost a hundred years ago. The technique of manipulating the backdrop and the props was well-employed to show the commonalities between the two time periods, which alternated between the different acts of the play. These did not change, and the difference between the sets in both time periods converged as more and more props became common to both time periods as the play progressed.

The play began with the setting of 19th century England, where Septimus Hodge (Daniel Peck ’13), the tutor of Thomasina Coverly (Emily Altschul ’13), tries to prevent her from understanding the phrase “carnal embrace” for the sake of education. They are interrupted by Ezra Chater (Jared Christensen ’10) who accuses Septimus Hodge of floundering with his wife in the gazebo. Septimus manages to appease Mr. Chater, and the play moves on to the present day with a humorous encounter between Hannah Jarvis (Lauren Alexander ’13), the current owner of the same house, and Bernard Nightingale (Conner Lane ’13), after Chloe Coverly (Lily Sacharow ’12) fails to conceal Mr. Nightingale’s identity.

In the next few scenes of the play, there is an interaction between Hannah and Valentine Coverly (Sam Dunnewold ‘12) on scientific theories that were part of Thomasina’s learning which were also common to Valentine’s recent research. Bernard tries to convince Chloe, Hannah and Valentine about his present-day theories of Mr. Chater’s murder in the past by Lord Byron, an invisible character throughout the play. The scene then shifts to the past showing what actually happened – the departure of the Chaters to West Indies, the passing of love letters by Septimus through Jellaby (Francesca Chubb-Confer ’11) to Lady Croom (Rachel Linder ’12) and to Thomasina.

The last scene brings together both the characters of the past and the present, on the night before Thomasina is supposed to die in a fire. Septimus waltzes with Thomasina, while Hannah dances with Augustus Coverly (Ned Heckman ’13).

“The fluidity between two very different yet similar time periods was well done,” said Benjamin Altshuler ’13, a member of the audience.

The play received a strong response from Carleton students and was well-attended on all of the nights.

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