Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia merges science with human concerns and ideals, examining the universe’s influence in our everyday lives and ultimate fates through relationship between past and present, order and disorder and the certainty of knowledge. Set in an English country house in the year 1809-1812 and 1989, the play examines the lives of two modern scholars and the house's current residents with the lives of those who lived there 180 years earlier.
Includes an interview with Steven Strogatz, the author of Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos and professor at the Cornell University School of Theoretical and Applied Mathematics.
An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring:
Kate Burton as Hannah
Mark Capri as Chater
Jennifer Dundas as Thomasina
Gregory Itzin as Bernard Nightingale
David Manis as Cpt. Brice
Christopher Neame as Noakes and Jellaby
Peter Paige as Valentine
Darren Richardson as Augustus
Kate Steele as Chloe
Serena Scott Thomas as Lady Croom
Douglas Weston as Septimus
Directed by John Rubinstein. Recorded at the Invisible Studios, West Hollywood.
Arcadia is part of L.A. Theatre Works’ Relativity Series featuring science-themed plays. Major funding for the Relativity Series is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to enhance public understanding of science and technology in the modern world.
©2009 L.A. Theatre Works (P)2009 L.A. Theatre Works
“Tom Stoppard’s richest, most ravishing comedy to date. A play of wit, intellect, language, brio and emotion,” and The Royal Institution of Great Britain calls it: “the best science book ever written.” ()The New York Times)
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This audible performance of Arcadia is very well acted and produced. My chief criteria for these audible plays are: (1) How closely does the performance stick to the script - i.e. have they omitted a significant portion of the dialog? (2) Sound quality: does it sound like they recorded a live stage performance with a microphone sitting on a corner of the stage, or was it recorded specifically for a listening audience? And do they use sound effects well?
On both accounts this is a high-quality production. It is also a charming, funny and intelligent play.
"Stoppard's wit and a bright, playful cast"
History, literature, science, gardening...a brilliant girl out of time and some lamebrained literary detective work. Stoppard at the top of his game, and a cast that includes Gregory Itzin, far from the evil Nixonian president he played on 24. You'll never hear the words "carnal embrace" again without giggling, just a little.
"Even in Arcadia..."
This dramatization is not quite the playwright's original text, but it takes some helpful artistic liberties that describe scenes and make the unspoken parts of the play flow easily within the dialogue. As far as the play, Stoppard is a master of transforming life's circumstances into math problems. He ruined statistical probability and chance in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead." He bashed Zeno's Paradox and geometry in "Jumpers." Now thermodynamics and Mandelbrot's fractals fall victim to the wit and genius of Stoppard; telling his love stories and the tragi-comedic foibles of life through the ages, using sex as the chaotic "strange attractor" that ruins the Newtonian universe. I listened to this dramatization, then read the play, then listened again with even more enjoyment. A friend of mine listened to the dramatization before attending a recent performance in New York, and he said that the audio "preview" greatly enhanced his enjoyment of the play itself. Even if you don't know one thing about entropy or self-similarity, this rendition will provide a delightful brain-teaser.
What I loved most? Wow, I'd be hard pressed to say since the entire play is great. I could pinpoint a favorite line, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone.
Thomasina, for sure. I've always imagined having a daughter like her. Something about a strong willed precocious female protagonist really draws me in.
This was an ensemble cast rather than a single narrator.
I had to analyze this play for a class and I can't wait to listen to it again. The actors are superb and foley is spot on. I read this play while listening to it at the same time; there are very few liberties taken with stage direction, but the ones that were better served the listening experience.
"'It's Wanting to Know That Makes Us Matter'"
A better quote/title for any review of this play would be 'What We Let Fall,' but since that was the partial title of the research paper I wrote on Arcadia for a graduate seminar back in the day, I figured I'd choose another for this one play that has it all: "Pigeons! Sex! Literature! Life and Death!" Stoppard's finest play (and probably the only one that will withstand the test of time and do well in revivals a century hence), unfortunately HAS to be seen to be appreciated, however. This isn't like the other plays I've reviewed here, wherein even a newcomer to the play can understand and fully appreciate the action without actually seeing it. I still cried like a baby at the conclusion on my way home this evening, when it was revealed who the Hermit of Sidley Park was and what caused him to go mad, retreat to the hermitage, and spend the rest of his life trying to prove out the theorem of a teenaged prodigy...but to take just the most stunning stage example, I was able to see that final scene--where the couple from the present dance "fluently," while the couple from the past dance "awkwardly," to quote from stage directions a first-time listener would never know--only because I've read and seen this play performed multiple times. It's possible such a listener wouldn't even know what was going on, especially toward the end, when scenes from the present begin to alternate with scenes from the past so rapidly that eventually they share the same stage simultaneously.
Do yourself a favor: See the play, and/or have the printed book handy, before you listen to this title. If you do that, you're in for a real treat.
Extra value can be had by listening to the interview with the Chaos Theory scientist at the end...and also by noticing that the actor playing Septimus Hodge sounds more like Kenneth Branagh than anyone else you've ever heard besides Kenneth Branagh!!
"Needs more that one listening."
If the interviews that came after the reading had come BEFORE the reading, I'd gotten a lot more of of this -- after all, it's an illustration of chaos theory. I needed a 'heads up'. It is witty, and intellectually stimulating, so I might give it another go.
Two sets of characters in two different time periods are hard to follow by ear alone, unless the performances are carefully designed to be easily distinguishable.
"Good Cast but Was Lost on the Story"
I thought that the narrators were, for the most part, great.
I had not read this play before so I was not familiar with the story at all. Therefore, I remained very confused about what the story was about. I couldn't keep track of the characters and their roles, and I kind of lost interest as it wasn't what I was expecting, leading me to replay scenes as my ears turned out. It could be that these types of plays are just not for me.
Part mystery, part mathematics/science/philosophy lesson, all entertaining. Stoppard's clever play is performed to perfection here.
"Cultural shifts and imagination"
How do you develop the capacity to link, in a continuous loop, the most abstract and the most concrete? By fleeing from one culture to another and to another and having to make sense of it all. This is what Tom Stoppard has done. From the eye of a chaotic experience to imagine order. Wethankhim.
"Great version of Arcadia"
Very well-performed recording of Arcadia. Audio quality excellent. I loved the bonus interview with Steven Strogatz at the end.
"Engaging and entertaining."
I was a little reluctant to listen based on previous reviews about the accents of the American actors. I eventually bought it as I wanted to hear a dramatic performance and found it on the whole an enjoyable experience. You would have to be very picky to find the accents annoying so if you are doubtful like I was then go for it and don't be put off.
"US actors doing posh British accents"
There are some very good things about this recording. It's clear, entrances and exits are by and large well delineated. It makes sense, allowing for the complexity and farcical nature of the narrative. The fact that a significant character who never speaks may or may not be in the room is a problem for any audio adaptation.
It is unfortunate, however, that a very significant character bears the surname Nightingale. Pronounced in English English with almost equal stress on all 3 syllables, pronounced by these actors as a dactyl (NITE-n-gale) with the last two syllables swallowed. Consequently, every time the character is referred to, I wince, and that, and other pronunciation infelicities, makes this an unhappy listening experience. I suppose if you don't know it's wrong, it doesn't matter. Maybe calling General Powell COLL-INN, not colon, seems very wrong to American listeners.
"Difficult subject matter, and a bit mis-cast."
While this witty and erudite play text provides both entertainment and intellectual challenge, problems with the production rather spoiled my enjoyment.
This isn't really relevant to a drama text.
Well, this isn't an audiobook, but an audio production of a play, so there are multiple voices. Here lies my main problem. As a UK listener, I could not suspend my disbelief in the English accents of some of the American actors playing British roles. They weren't terrible, and a US listener might not have a problem with this aspect of the performance. However, it is not just a matter of pronunciation or vowel sounds. Sentences were stressed in an unidiomatic way, and meaning was sometimes lost.There are some complex mathematical and intellectual ideas presented here, so clarity of meaning is important.
The play is split into two time frames, that of the 18th century juxtaposed with a modern setting. It seems to me that the actors chosen for the 18th century sections were native Brits (or if not, American actors with impeccable accents and delivery.) The contemporary sections are voiced with American actors who can't quite get it right. The production also sounds under-rehearsed in the contemporary sections, with some rather emotionally unvaried performances.
There are also some visual effects which are hard to reproduce in audio format, which could have been edited out.
I have listened to many LA Theatre Works offerings and they are generally excellent. Even the Ayckbourn plays with mixed US/British casts are almost completely convincing. This was a disappointment.
Not entirely. This is a stimulating but complex text which is nearly 3 hours in length. It needs better acting and direction in parts to justify the committment from the listener.
"A great play well performed"
Although the question of comparing a printed version to the audio edition is somewhat strange, as it is a play, I prefer the audio version of Arcadia.
A great, great play - heartily recommended. Stoppard at his finest.
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