Off-Broadway Review: ARCADIA (BEDLAM at West End Theater)

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by M. Tornatore on November 12, 2023

in Theater-New York


One of Tom Stoppard’s most accessible plays gets a fine Off-Broadway revival by Bedlam Theatre Company. Like a very cerebral whodunit, the plot of Arcadia follows Thomasina Coverly, who in 1809 is a gifted teenager with very advanced ideas about physics and math. She studies with Septimus Hodge, her tutor, and is surrounded in her family’s manor by other characters (including Lord Byron), who are mostly involved in sexual shenanigans.

Zuzanna Szadkowski

In present day, three scholars are investigating different theories, and speculating about the past lives of the initial characters. The story unfolds in many unexpected ways, as it discusses the relationship between past and present, and poses serious questions about art, chaos theory, music, entropy, sex, betrayal, geometry, academia, and even thermodynamics.

If that sounds too demanding for a regular audience, the three-hour running time is always thrilling and peppered as usual with the playwright’s humor and witticisms as these larger-than-life themes are discussed throughout.

Elan Zafir

The entire cast shone over the very intricate text, with special mention to Elan Zafir as Bernard Nightingale, who found a perfect balance to display his character’s unscrupulous ambition and hilarious naïveté.

A gorgeous puzzle, the author weaves little details through the play’s two acts, and most of the fun for the audience is trying to understand the clues from past and how they might reveal themselves differently in the present time.

Mike Labbadia and Zuzanna Szadkowski 

Eric Tucker‘s direction made the most of the limited space, but with wonderful touches. Most moving to me was a beautifully directed scene where a modern character crosses downstage looking at the light of a smart phone, while a character from the past mimics that movement upstage, this time holding a lighted candle that represents a key plot point.

Like an infinite set of Russian nesting dolls, all threads are tied up in a very emotional resolution that is truly beautiful to witness. Not to be missed.

With Alan Altschuler, Lisa Birnbaum, Shaun Taylor Corbett, Caroline Grogan, Deychen Volino-Gyetsa, Mike Labbadia, Arash Mokhtar, Randolph Curtis Rand, Jamie “Smitty” Smithson, Zuzanna Szadkowski, and Devin Vega.

The Cast of Arcadia

photos by Ashley Garrett

West End Theater, 263 W 86th St
ends on December 3, 2023 EXTENDED to December 31, 2023
for tickets, ($80-$100), visit Bedlam

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