The Central Square Theater in Cambridge is currently showing a production of Arcadia, written by Tom Stoppard. This show is running until May 31st, and is definitely worth a visit! Whether you’re from out of town and or a local, this show is a great way to add some culture to your time spent in Cambridge.
Arcadia opens in 1809, in England, and follows the lives of the family and guests living at Sidley Park, a country estate. These characters remain alive right up to the present, however, as the scenes alternate between “modern” times (1990s) and the early 19th century. The timelines in this play connect and overlap during the production, and I would describe the plot as being “satisfyingly confusing”. The themes of science, discovery and human character are mixed in between the acts and the centuries, and keep the viewers attentive to the intricate and witty dialogue.
The scientific discoveries that Thomasina Coverly makes in 1809, with the instruction she receives from her tutor, are lost to the archives of her country estate, Sidley Park. That is, however, until researchers and biographers such as Hannah Jarvis and Bernard Nightingale re-examine the past to see who exactly was residing at Sidley. Was Lord Byron ever a guest? What happened to the pompous poet, Ezra Chater, after 1809?
The curiosities that lay hidden in the past can be unearthed, not just from written records of guests, but logbooks of gardening and library loans. Arcadia viewers have to stay tuned to the biting dialogue and wit throughout the whole play, because a throwaway comment can turn into the answer to any number of questions. Don’t be daunted, however, by the pace of this play, as the constant questioning and debate of the characters illustrate the main themes of the play which stretch through two centuries.
The stage for Arcadia is structured all around one long table, and the theater itself is set up so intimately that any audience member is only a row or two away from being actually on stage, give or take a row. This arrangement is captivating, as there’s no risk of having a limited view of the production from a mezzanine or awkwardly placed behind a pole.
Getting to Central Square Theater
Tickets can be purchased here, or for more information on the Central Square Theater, click here. The theater is located less than a few blocks away from the red line on the Boston Subway, the T, making it a convenient location from almost anywhere in the city.