(Above: Jane Brinkley and Owen Skornik-Hayes have lead roles in Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia” at South Eugene High School Theater. Photos by Samantha Stout)
By Randi Bjornstad
It may sound a bit Jane Austin-ish, and indeed, Tom Stoppard’s play, “Arcadia,” moves back and forth from the early 19th century to the early 21st, from the well-heeled country home of the Coverly family in the then to now, where two researchers vie to best each other when it comes to uncovering and cataloguing centuries of ghosts on the estate.
The comedy is onstage at the South Eugene High School Theater through Feb. 18, displaying the wit, intellect, charm and emotion Stoppard infused in it when he wrote it in 1993.
The gist of the plot revolves around Thomasina, a member of the Coverly family in the early days of the Sidley Park estate, who is not only a perfectly normal teenager curious about love and the opposite sex but also a mathematics whiz with a corollary penchant for examining subjects such as chaos theory, under the direction of her tutor, Septimus Hodge.
At the same time, they’re occupying space — psychically at least — two centuries later with historical researchers Bernard Nightingale and Hannah Jarvis.
Naturally, the centuries and the plots get thoroughly mixed up, as as the modern-day researchers gather their own evidence about the life and times of the long-ago activities of the historical residents, which include, however improbably, the poet Lord Byron, a hermit who made his home on the estate and a mysterious duel that may or may not have happened.
Thomasina Coverly is played by Jane Brinkley, with Owen Skornik-Hayes as Septimus Hodge. Zack Harris takes the part of Bernard Nightingale opposite Margaret Gleason’s Hannah Jarvis.
Pat Avery directs.
“Arcadia” is Stoppard’s effort to link clues from the past to interpretations in the present, at the same time throwing in elements of science, nature and literature that range from thermodynamics to botany to poetry.
The play was lionized from its opening and is widely considered Stoppard’s best. In 2006, it was named “one of the best science-related works ever written” by the Royal Institution of Great Britain.
“Arcadia,” a play by Tom Stoppard
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 9-11 and 16-18
Where: SEHS Auditorium, 400 E. 19th Ave., Eugene
Tickets: $10 general admission, $7 for students and senior citizens, online at southeugenetheater.org or at the door