Saturday, March 31, 2007

Arcadia

Lakewood Theatre Company
Posted by Followspot March 31, 2007; closes April 7, 2007

“Found all the mysteries and lost all the meaning.” Lost track somewhere in Act I, lost interest somewhere in Act II of more than three hours of poky trivial erudition, rather than sprightly mind-bending detective games. Successful: unencumbered charm of Todd Van Voris. Less: characters seemingly derived from belabored accents.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

For shame....it was a truly magnificent piece of work..of course you liked the over the top vaudeville actor. I've seen Portland theatre now for over fifteen years...Seen this show in three different countries this was one of the best shows ever put on in Portland and the clearest production of it I have ever seen. The script is 100 pages long it is three hours no matter who does it...The audience on March 31st LOVED the show..I was there and moved to tears been many sublime performances. Most notably Chelsie Kinney as Thomasina and Paul Angelo as Septimus.

Anonymous said...

I attended the performance on March 31st and would have to say that I was completely pulled into the story. I thought it was a lovely piece of theatre, script, lighting, set and performances. Yes, I would agree that Todd V. stood out in the modern world and thought the chemistry between he and Chloe was wonderful to watch, however, it was the world of the 1800's that I looked forward to. I thought the relationship between Septimus and Thomasina was quite beautiful, and their work in the piece should be applauded. I thought it was the pace of the 1809 scenes that kept the play going quite honestly. The ending moved me to tears. All in all, Lakewood should be very proud of this production, one of the best I've seen in Portland.

qk said...

Bravo for even attempting to perform the confusing pile of words and wit that is this play...True, it lagged a bit. It seemed like a few of Stoppard's little jokes could have been made funnier by stronger performances. "Close, but no cigar" sums it up I think.

Anonymous said...

What I saw was a really moving piece of theatre I thought all the elements were superb. Cast, crew, lighting, sound, set. Really enjoyed the show. Performances that stood out for me: Septimus, Thomasina, Todd Van Voris. Great job to all

Anonymous said...

Pure pain. Truly an endurance event.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed that people found this play to be confusing. I think this is one of Stoppard's best plays. Infact, it is quite brilliant. I thought in many ways the Lakewood production did a fine job pulling it off.

Anonymous said...

As a Brit, I didn't hear "belabored" accents. I heard some poor ones, true, but I also heard a healthy variety which would be what one should reasonably expect. Lady Croom's accent was right on the mark for the most part; very specific to her period and class. The same could be said for the fellow playing Bernard.

I often think you Yanks have a tin ear for such things.

Oh, and I quite enjoyed the production. Well done, little theatre!

BCD said...

Followspot didn't say the accents were wrong or inaccurate, just "belabored" -- the same which could be said for someone doing an accurate southern accent for, say, a Tennessee Williams play. COuld be 100% real and still get in the way or used as a crutch, whcih I think FS was trying to get at.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that actors shouldn't use accents? Lets look at the definition of belabored: to discuss or explain excessively. Don't see how that fits. I'm also confused about the comment that if someone was using a southern accent that was 100% correct they could use that as a crutch. hmm. Seems if they were 100% correct they would be able to let their character fly free. Anyway, I would have to side with the Brit. I heard a healthy variety of English accents, none of which made me squirm. Lovely performance Lakewood and Cast!

BCD said...

No, I'm just saying that accuracy doesn't always make good theatre; sometimes artistic license (or interpretation) makes for better theatre.

LF said...

Sometimes an actor can do an accent so "correctly" that it gets in the way of the acting. That is what belabored means to me. You want the accent to add to the overall effect, not distract you with you CORRECT it is. I don't think there's an equation to this, just that sometimes when I hear someone doing an accent all I can think of is the accent, whereas when it's done really well I don't think about it at all.

Anonymous said...

The only time a 100% correct accent gets in the way is if not every person in the cast can pull it off, which happened here. Accents are tricky. I'm not saying, "If you can't do it right, don't do it," cause I don't wanna see someone from the 1800's talking like their from Portland, but there's a balance of cast efficiency which can hurt a production.

I do love that people directly involved with this production have been checking this blog every single day, waiting for FS to show up, say his piece, and then attack...under the guise of some "random person" whose thoughts just so happen to be in an almost British dialect. coincidence?

Granted, you are entitled to anonymously defend your show, but I am entitled to anonymously disagree and say that I found this show to be very "Lakewood: Safe and unchallenging...kinda drab with glimmers of entertainment."

Now, you are entitled to anonymously state that you are NOT in the cast and disagree with me, but I have yet to see a Lakewood production that blows my mind. At least they keep their subscription base happy, which I am not a part of. I'm just a flash in the pan for them, occasionally showing up to see a production of a script I like, so really...who cares what I think? Not you...or me? Or the friends of cast members who feel their friends deserve praise...anonymously.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's just a matter of how well it's done, or in which context. Many British, French, and Spanish accents -- even East Indian accents in recent decades -- are so familiar and comfortable that we may not really notice them anymore. But an accent you don't hear as often -- say, Afrikaans or Indonesian -- may be so new or uncommon on the local stage that you can't help noticing it "apart" from the action.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4/0/1

Why Would you assume that someone who is anonymous is anonymously defending "their" show...if you love them all so much then for sure you can state your name...I too know many of the people in this show and I know from personal conversations that they do not frequent this site nor do they care what is said here...

Incidentally I thought the show was one of the best EVER done in this city...if you didn't "get it" it was because of your lack of sensitivity...it is frankly-- beyond most of the people in this town.

Frogger said...

To those who found the production boring:

Is it possible that you simply did not comphrehend the complexity of this highly intellectual script?

Seems likely to me.

Anonymous said...

Accents aside (what was the gardener supposed to be? Welsh?), the real problem I observed with this production was pacing. The show ran 30 minutes longer than other productions I've seen, and by the end I just wanted out.

Anonymous said...

I'd give it a B+. The acting was solid, some of very good. Had no trouble following the script (damn that inevitable entropy!); the previous comments regarding the audience being too stupid to get the show are condescending at best, insulting at worst. There's no need to be a jerk because you're defending the show. It rather undercuts your position.

It is a long show, and, at least the night I saw, I felt there was a lull past the top of the second act that took awhile to recover from. Thought Chelsie was very good and look forward to more of her work.

I rather liked the set and thought the critics hubbub about it looking a Street of Dreams home was unfounded. Gorgeous lighting at the close.

David Loftus said...

As the person who played the gardener, I can answer that question: his accent is meant to be Scottish. If you have seen the play before and not heard a Scottish accent from Noakes, the actor or director evidently ignored what we took to be a hint from the playwright toward the end of the conversation between Septimus and Thomasina about the Great Library of Alexandria: he talks about the steam engine that sends Mr. Noakes into an ecstasy and adds "Steam and brass were not invented in Glasgow."

The failure, I would imagine, of most audience members to pick up on a fleeting and certainly minor reference such as the one above, at least partly underlies some of the aesthetic decisions about pacing. Many of us in the cast have seen other productions that were delivered at breakneck pace, and it's difficult enough to follow Stoppard's clues and meanderings at the speed we chose, particularly in order to emphasize the characters' relationships, which was our director's goal. The OSF production some years back emphasized the math and science threads but left the relationships woefully slack.

I can vouch for what Anonymous 4/1 11:17 says: in every show I have been in the past year, I've talked to fellow cast members who did not read Followspot -- even a few who did not know it existed. Although it's not a huge sample, in most cases, the more professional and experienced the actor, the less likely he or she visited the Followspot blog. With the cast of "Arcadia" in particular, I would be astounded to hear that someone had urged a friend to post anonymous, positive comments on Followspot; I would never do such a thing, and I am one of the least experienced and professional stage actors in this excellent cast.

I don't see the value of guessing at the identity and motivations of other posters here, and I find the moderator's willingness to allow such snarkiness to get on the site less defensible than his review, which is acceptable as his opinion. For what it's worth, this is my first and likely last post to this thread.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:57 am 4-0-2...the show ran 30 minutes longer than any production you've seen? really? I'd love to know where you were seeing it at 2:30 with a fifteen minute intermission. What did they cut? This show was 2:45 with a 15 minute intermission.... I had a friend who understudied in the B'way production and it came in consistently at 3:11 to 3:15 accroding to him-- with the intermission. And the London production was the same at the National... I saw it. And by the way people walked out of Both of those producitons...my friend tells me first hand from the B'way show and the people I was sitting next to at the National never returned after intermission... Point is this show was just as long as both of those and I liked them all...It's just not for some people....we like to think we love the theatre but honestly how many of us opt for the foreign Language art film over good summer action flicks! This is the same thing...if you didn't like it-- fine. It doesn't mean the show wasn't brilliant (because it was) and if you did like it it doesn't mean the other folks are idiots (cuz they're not.)

David Loftus said...

> we like to think we love the
> theatre but honestly how many of
> us opt for the foreign Language
> art film over good summer action
> flicks!

I do, actually, but I'm a weirdo. I also spend more time watching local theater now than television (though that was not the case before I started acting in town and paying attention to how much worthwhile theater is available).

By the way, an elderly gentleman was overheard (by the director) to say, after opening night of our show, "Saw it in New York. It's still incomprehensible."

Anonymous said...

The night I saw it the show ended after 11:30.

Anonymous said...

About accents....
I saw this production, and it was my opinion that-in the part of the play that takes place during the 19th century-all of the actors(with the exception of the excellent Chelsie Kinney as Thomasina) spoke with accents that were(accuracy aside) belabored. I don't presume to know exactly what the original poster of the "belabored" comment meant, but here is what it meant for me:
that the actors had strong, distinct accents, but they did not make the accents their own. That is, their voices did not seem natural coming from their mouths, which got in the way of their attempts to portray a real person, as opposed to a representation of an "English person in the early 19th century".
This was coupled with stiff, overly-representational physicality to create characters that resembled aliens who have put on the skin of human beings, doing their best imitation of what a human being acts and speaks like in an effort to infiltrate our ranks and take over the world.
This sort of acting is something I have seen over and over again on stage, which is one of the main reasons I find theatre to be far behind film as a form of entertainment and social commentary. I believe that theatre-especially in most Portland venues, which are much smaller than Lakewood (not exactly a large house, in itself)-CAN be effective in "holding the mirror up to nature". Unfortunately, I think that too large a portion of theatre people still seem to think that theatre has to be something that the more successful medium of film left behind decades ago. Me, I tune out unless I see real people. Seems pretty simple to me, but I rarely ever see it.

David Loftus said...

Okay, so that wasn’t my last post, or even second-to-last. But this topic is interesting. I’m curious to know how confident Anonymous 4/03/2007 11:53:00 PM is in his or her knowledge of how people spoke and acted (interesting word, that) in the early 19th century. The question arises for me because a comparison was made to film. Knowing how many simple errors and anachronisms I regularly see in films, I am not convinced they’re the best source of information about how people behaved in other times and countries. Costumes and sets have made terrific advances in historic authenticity, but human behavior? Films are often caught in a nexus between the screenwriter’s/director’s/actors’ knowledge base, limited though that may be, and what will please or even be intelligible to a modern audience.

That film acting may seem more “natural” may only indicate that actors in historical films often behave like people we know. But did real people in centuries past? Growing up in the luxury of a comparatively classless society, where the rich and famous and powerful sometimes make a fetish of appearing ultra casual, we may take for granted that folks in centuries past had as little need of ritual, sign, and manner suited to their place in society. Much of the humor and drama of plays written at the time centered around characters who misunderstood or openly flouted the “stiff, over-representational physicality” of their time and class.

Stoppard Fanatic said...

Quoting Meester Loftus:
"By the way, an elderly gentleman was overheard (by the director) to say, after opening night of our show, "Saw it in New York. It's still incomprehensible." "

So...are you agreeing that your production is incomprehensible? Sounds like something you're proud of.

This is just my personal belief, but if you choose to produce a script and put it on stage, it is the responsibility of the director, actors, and crew to make it comprehensible.

The audience usually doesn't understand a play if the players don't understand the play, but that's just my opinion.

By the way, I do understand, completely, the play on paper, so please don't attack my not understanding the play because you feel that it's "over my head," as someone generalized earlier about anyone who didn't get this production.

By the way, I did enjoy the show. I just felt it didn't fully relay all the info, which is given in the script, in a totally understandable way.

Anonymous said...

re: Anon 4/03/2007 11:53:00 PM

i saw this show, and the physicality and dialect work you take issue with seemed to be a style choice. i.e., a director's choice, faithfully played by the cast.

David Loftus said...

> So...are you agreeing that your
> production is incomprehensible?
> Sounds like something you're
> proud of.

Not at all, on either count. My point was that, despite our best efforts to make the script comprehensible, some folks (including my friends and members of my family) struggled and possibly failed. I can understand that; a lot of the play only slowly revealed itself to the cast over weeks of rehearsals. Stoppard may be a bit beyond some people. We in the cast have to live with that.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. Can't we all just get along. Go see the show if you havn't had a chance. It is really a fine production. Good job everyone at Lakewood and break legs for your final weekend!!!!

David Loftus said...

> The night I saw it the show ended after 11:30.

This sounded highly suspicious to me, since I've gotten home to downtown Portland from Lake Oswego shortly after 11:30 most nights, so I checked with our stage manager, the redoubtable Bonnie Toon-Sweeney. She wrote: "I will agree that Saturday's intermission went longer than usual as we were addressing a chair safety issue. We did not run until 11:30 - possibly 11:15 by the time house lights came back up. Most nights we run until 11:03 or 11:05."

Now, three hours is three hours. But the primary concern should be not so much "is the production long?", period, but "is it too long for the story it has to tell, in the manner in which it tells it?" Exaggerations such as "I saw productions that were only 2-1/2 hours," or "this one runs "3-1/2 hours" are not only inaccurate, but a little beside the point.

David Loftus said...

That the two shows I've seen the past week -- "The Sisters Rosensweig" and "Fences" -- also ran very close to three hours including intermission underlines my point. It's not how long, period, but how long it feels relative to the story you have to tell and how you tell it.

H said...

A production can be too long at 2 hours, or thrilling at 4 hours. The point is, if people are criticizing this production of Arcadia for being too long, it's probably less about the actual time that passed and more about how that time passed. That might be good criticism to take in.

Anonymous said...

The show never ended after 11:30 that is a complete and utter lie.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little late to this thread...I don't generally post on this site because it seems to me to mostly be catty and malicious...but I must say this show was SUPERB the finest thing I have ever seen in this tiny little theatre town. If you didn't get it or thought it was too long that's because YOU didn't get it...THE BEST THING I have seen this whole season nothing else even came close.

PS The accents were SPOT on they even had the class distinctions down...thats is probably what you unintiated heard as "belaboured".
Truly a fine piece of work. The best thing I have ever seen come oue of Lakewood as well.