Tom Stoppard’s 1993 play “Arcadia” is a complex work of ideas, and Lumina Studio Theatre’s student ensemble set itself an ambitious task in taking it on for a just-ended weekend run at the Silver Spring Black Box Theatre. The result was largely successful due to the strength of Lumina’s performers and David Minton’s directing.
…Lumina is about its students, and the company’s veteran young performers excel in this staging. Expect to see these actors on the region’s professional stages soon.
Anna Brookes — who, as she points out in her cast biography, is the only member of the cast playing a character younger than she is — excels as Thomasina Coverly, a 13-year-old prodigy of the Georgian-era landed gentry who is equally enthralled by the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the prospect of one day taking part in a “carnal embrace.” While many young actors (and more than a few adult ones) make do by offering a precise recitation of memorized lines, Brookes is lively and sparkling as the effervescent Thomasina.
She is equally matched by another Anna — Anna Avanesyan — portraying present-day scholar Hannah Jarvis, who is as jaded as Thomasina is excitable. Avanesyan is cutting and droll in her spirited interactions with ambitious author Bernard Nightingale — an assured Karim Angulo — and successfully embodies Hannah’s exasperations with humor and panache.
Another standout is Anyana Greene as young mathematician Valentine Coverly, who finds as much romance in statistics as Bernard does in poetry. Greene has a great moment angrily refuting Bernard’s presumption that the humanities contain more worth than mathematics, and calling out the petty ambitions of self-absorbed academics.
“Arcadia,” like most Stoppard works, is a verbose play, and the cast sometimes struggled to find its footing. In striving to set the pace, the early scenes were a rush of words that occasionally made the script’s complex ideas hard to follow. Once past these initial moments, however, the company settled into a rhythm that kept the action moving ahead without causing key points to be lost.
The action took place on a detailed yet functional set — a well-appointed drawing room with a large writing table at center — by Jim Porter, Julie Reiner, and Steve Brown. While the period costumes by Wendy Eck and Dianne Dumais keep the audience in tune with the show’s shifting time periods, the fact that the set does not change with the times can be distracting. While the quick changes between scenes would have made major shifts challenging, a few shifts of furniture or changes of props would have sufficed. (The lighting is also mostly unchanged throughout most of the show; some alteration with the changing times could also have helped.)
But Lumina is about its students, and the company’s veteran young performers excel in this staging. Expect to see these actors on the region’s professional stages soon.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours with one intermission.
“Arcadia” closes on April 7, 2019. For more information about Lumina Studio Theatre, click here.