Tom Stoppard's dazzling comedy of ideas hasn't been performed locally in more than a decade, and from what we hear, the current Blackbird Theater production is more than up to the task. From Martin Brady's rave Scene review:
Director Ted Swindley's bold staging is exceedingly confident, and that may be because we're living in an age in Music City when serious acting talent is everywhere, and ambitious young theater companies (Blackbird, Studio Tenn) keep mounting challenging plays that showcase it.
The setting is Sidley Park, an English country house, around 1809 and later fast-forwarded to the present day. At curtain's rise, we see Thomasina Coverly (Amanda Card McCoy), a 13-year-old with precocious ideas about mathematics. Also present is her facile bon vivant tutor, Septimus Hodge (Jeff Boyet), a friend of the poet Lord Byron (a character never seen, but a strong presence nonetheless). Other members of the household eventually enter and exit, usually with trivial or downright silly concerns — all worth a temporary laugh, but not accounted for fully until much later.
As the time period shifts, we witness the academic convergence of a biographer named Hannah Jarvis (Denice Hicks); Bernard Nightingale (David Compton), a literary historian investigating Byron; and a postgraduate student in mathematical biology named Valentine Coverly (Wes Driver). The work of the researchists helps to tie up some of the mysteries of Thomasina's lifetime and drives a great deal of the play's mordant wit.
If that sounds a bit dry for an epic three hours, it might be — in the hands of another writer. But Stoppard is nothing if not masterful, wielding bitchy comic spirit here and absurdist humor there, then joyfully satirizing academia through pleasingly puffed-up characters and sharp dialogue. ... Even when it's funny — which is often — Arcadia is no simple walk in the park. But for the verbally inclined, it is a pastoral paradise.