Tom Stoppard’s dramatic trilogy The Coast of Utopia, currently playing on Broadway, just added ten Tony nominations to the slew of awards it’s already won.
Here’s a photo of Jennifer Ehle — yes, the delightful Elizabeth Bennet from the BBC/A&E Pride and Prejudice — performing in The Coast of Utopia.
I love Tom Stoppard — he’s definitely my favorite modern playwright. I think this may be in part because he is in some ways very old-fashioned.
He cares about language, for one thing. Oh, the word-play in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead! And, indeed, the word-play in pretty much everything he’s ever written! Just gorgeous. Deliriously fun.
He’s also interested in history, and many of his plays have been set in others times and/or places.
Take, for example, Arcadia. Half of it takes place during the Regency, and half during the present…and the details are wonderful.
(This photo here is from a production of Arcadia performed at Le Moyne College in 2005. Lovely!)
So… Have you ever seen a production of Arcadia? Where?
What did you think of it?
Do you see much theatre? Which playwrights (modern or not) do you like best?
All answers welcome!
Cara King, author of MY LADY GAMESTER, in which the protagonists see several plays and one elephant
I wept with delight when I first saw Arcadia, at Lincoln Center, maybe 10 years ago. I also love the work of Tony Kushner (Angels in America) and the British playwright Caryl Churchill (Far Away is one of the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen on the stage).
All three of these authors do bigger-than-life historical stuff that touches on political issues that are close to my heart. And all of them are crazy for big language.
Oh and the fantastic Irish playwright Martin McDonagh (A Skull in Connemara, and the much less good one that won awards on Broadway last year). And Samuel Beckett.
But past that, I’m very ignorant about theater, and don’t get to see nearly enough plays.
Ah, is it okay to admit I never heard of it until this blog post? 🙂 Except for two things in high school – let me think here. . . a production of R&J, which I pretty sure remembering all of us thought was funny when they died because you can see them still breathing LOL and another time it was some sort of collection of Edgar Allen Poe short stories – I only saw a P&P on stage last year. Really good, and it was only 3 hours. 🙂
I loooooove Tom Stoppard, though I’d never heard of Arcadia or the Coast of Utopia. I’ll have to look up both & see if I can catch performances anywhere close to me.
I’ve loved R&G are Dead since I first saw it in my freshman year of high school. On of my all time favorite teachers ever showed it to us and I fell in love with the idea of “more to the story” and it made me wonder what happens to characters when the book covers are shut or the actors are off stage.
I saw that same version of Arcadia as Pam did, with Robert Sean Leonard and Billy Crudup. Forget who else was in it.
I love David Mamet and Pinter, too.
I don’t get to see nearly as much live theater here as I would like! (The theaters here are, um, limited in scope…). But I do love Tom Stoppard’s work very much, and wish I was in NY to see Utopia, which I’ve been reading so much about (was there ever a more fabulous cast assembled??)
Pam, in college I actually got to appear in a Churchill play! “Cloud Nine”, very strange. 🙂
Megan, with those two in it I would probably forget the rest of the cast, too! 🙂
Stoppard is a god. His play Hapgood is one of my favorites. For those who don’t live in theatrical hotspots, he’s also the pen behind the such amazing films as Brazil, Empire of the Sun, and Shakespeare in Love.
pwivtI love Stoppard. A friend saw “The Coast of Utopia” in NYC over the holidays. I was so jealous–he brought me back a program, which only made me want to see it more. I saw “Arcadia” at A.C.T. in San Francisco and then at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and loved it both times. I just recently rereada it–such a brilliant play, so witty and so heartbreaking. I’m also particularly fond of Stoppard’s “The Real Thing” (the very first Broadway play I ever saw, with Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close) and “Hapgood”. I loved theater of all types and eras. Shakespeare, Wilde, Chekhov, Kushner, Churchill, Mamet, Jon Robin Baitz, August WIlson, Edward Albee. Lots of other writers I’m not thinking of off the top of my head.
Arcadia is definitely one of my favorite plays ever. I loved the Regency bits — Byron and Capability Brown and all — but I loved all the rest just as well, with its musings on history, and genius, and love. (It’s often performed by colleges, so even if you’re not near a major theater center, you may be able to find a production!)
There’s tons by him I haven’t ever seen — Tracy, I envy you seeing that production of The Real Thing! (I also have not seen any of the Coast of Utopia plays yet, though I haven’t given up hoping…)
I liked Hapgood too, Kalen, though it’s not my favorite of his. (I suppose that would be either Arcadia or R&C Are Dead.) I have managed to also see Indian Ink, The Invention of Love, and Rock & Roll. (With Rufus Sewell! Very nice.)
And I will be seeing a local production of Travesties this Friday, come to think of it!
I see a lot of plays, but most of them are older things — Shakespeare and Moliere and Sheridan and Wilde and their ilk. (Or perhaps I should say “their ilks” — Shakespeare and Wilde don’t have all that much in common!) 🙂
Tracy, I saw that production of “The Real Thing” on Broadway too! It was fantastic. I’ve seen two or three amateur productions of it since then, but I must admit, Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close kind of spoil you for other people. 🙂
I managed to see “Coast of Utopia” in London, when I was jet-lagged out of my mind. It was still wonderful, though. And “Arcadia” is one of my favorite plays of all time, particularly the way it weaves together science and history and literature, three things that I care greatly about. I guess I’ve been lucky to live in places (New York, London, Los Angeles) with lots of theater.
Stoppard is definitely my favorite modern playwright, though there are a number of others that I like. I must admit, I tend to be more into classic theater–Shakespeare and Moliere and Restoration Comedy and the 18th Century playwrights. And Oscar Wilde, and Gilbert and Sullivan. 🙂 But I think Stoppard will easily rank among those classics in the judgment of history.
When I was a kid on summer vacation with my family, one of the things we would do was read plays aloud, and among the first things we did were “After Magritte” and “The Real Inspector Hound.” And I’ve been in a production of “Travesties” and directed “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.”
Arcadia is my favorite play ever. I just saw a good production at the UW school of drama here in Seattle a couple of weeks ago. I keep working it into conversations (along with the Attolia trilogy which I just read and which I also keep talking about. Nonstop).
I’ve seen it three or four times now and I think I could see it several more. I’m completely convinced that it’s my own personal play, even though I didn’t hear of it until long after college.
I’ve always wanted to see what the Lifeline Theatre in Chicago managed to do with the couple of Georgette Heyer adaptions that they did. Ever since I heard they did a production of The Talisman Ring I’ve kept an eye on their offerings.
To my delight, when my mother moved to Chicago a few years ago, she ended up just a few blocks away and we saw a production of Around the World in 80 Days and a play about a Radio production of The Shadow.
I find that 20th century plays are hit or miss. I saw a production of a play about Sheridan and a play about Machiavelli — in both cases there was just a heavy handed “point” being made about modern politics that the authors felt free to tinker with history as much as they wanted. That annoyed me.
I definitely want to see more Stoppard and I want to see Proof.
Proof is cool. Power to the math geeks! Ra! Ra!
I saw a production of a play about Sheridan and a play about Machiavelli — in both cases there was just a heavy handed “point” being made about modern politics that the authors felt free to tinker with history as much as they wanted. That annoyed me.
Actually, I was only recently remarking to my long-suffering wife on how different the standards are for historical accuracy between books and plays or movies. While many books contain inaccuracies, these are almost always considered flaws. In plays and films, however, it’s considered quite legitimate to completely move events around and alter them for dramatic purposes. Doesn’t make them bad plays or films; but it really is a very different standard.
Saw “Arcadia” at the Arena Stage in Washington DC. I adore the play and think Stoppard is a theatrical god. I saw the revival of “The Real Thing” with Jennifer Ehle and Stephen Rea on Broadway. They may not be Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons, but they were very, very good. I’ve also seen “India Ink” and the first play in the “Coast of Utopia” trilogy.
What I love about Stoppard is how he manages to combine weighty topics with pure entertainment and never condescends in either. Arcadia is about how gender, technology, and era affect who we are and what we can do (how does a pre-computer Regency miss demonstrate that she’s a math genius?). It’s about how do we know what we know about the past. It’s also a love story and a mystery and a ripping good yarn. Not to mention that it has the most romantic ending I’ve seen on stage. I do love this play.
I’m so late commenting, but I LOVED Arcadia. Saw it years ago in Brisbane, Australia, with a friend. My friend fell asleep but I was entranced. I’ve always hated maths but during that play I could believe in the beauty of quadratic equations! I can’t remember who was in it, except the handsome tutor, who went on to star in one of our TV dramas as a police officer. I never looked at him the same way again:)