A dignified and profound finale
|New Leaf Theatre presents|
Review by Katy Walsh
"The aesthetic model that I was thinking of when we were talking about the decision to close was the last frame of Calvin and Hobbes. That way of ending a mission and completing a body of work…so the work will always have integrity and it won’t seep away or we won’t try and change it into something else.”
Nick Keenan, Ensemble Member, TimeOut Chicago, June 2012
After performing for Chicago for more than a decade, New Leaf Theatre will permanently go dark on June 16th. Before they leave *the party* for destinations unknown, New Leaf is giving our city one more chance to experience their theatrical gift. This show is a dignified and profound finale to New Leaf’s extensive body of work. And they serve it up with tea and biscuits.
New Leaf Theatre presents Arcadia. At Sidley Park, a country home in England, literature, science, and relationships are discussed at two different times: 1809 and modern day. Same house. Same subjects. Different time periods. In the past, Thomasina is theorizing determinism. Septimus is probing Mrs. Chater. Lady Croom is plotting a garden makeover. And Lord Byron is in the house…in theory. Fast forward two hundred years, Hannah is theorizing the hermitage. Bernard is probing Chloe. Valentine is plotting grouse migration. And Lord Byron is in the house…in theory. The present day folks use snippets of information to piece together history. Arcadia is an exquisite tribute to learning from the past.
I’m a big fan of Playwright Tom Stoppard’s work. This play might be his finest. Stoppard intertwines multiple stories and intricate details in this enduring tale. If you haven’t seen this play before, I recommend reading the wikipedia page. Knowing who is who turns the witty situations from clever to genius. Under the expert direction of Jessica Hutchison, past and present intermingle with subtle fluidity and heightened absurdity. Hutchison makes the 19th century cast elegantly droll while the modern-day ensemble go full-on snarky. The contrast engages and amuses. I’m completely captivated by this complex, intellectual farce.
The 12-member cast leave me wanting more. Even after nearly three hours, I want the show to continue evolving to determine the fates of these wonderful characters. At the heart of the olden days is a dashing Billy Fenderson (Septimus) and precocious Hilary Williams (Thomasina). Fenderson and Williams charm with a favorite teacher and pupil camaraderie. Another standout is a hysterical Saren Nofs-Snyder (Lady Croom), delivering cruel barbs with queen-of-the-house majesty. In contemporary times, Dan Granata (Bernard) is buffoon-to-the-max. Granata plays it wonderfully over-the-top while Marsha Harman (Hannah) goes brilliantly deadpan. Add in Pat King’s (Valentine) quirky academic-type and the comedy continually zings. Ever-present, the silent Scott Ray Merchant brings his adorability. The cast is just terrific over the two hundred year span.
New Leaf will close its doors with integrity and a huge hit. Arcadia is a finale not to be missed.
Arcadia continues through June 16th at Lincoln Park Cultural Center, 2045 N. Lincoln Park West (map), with performances Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8pm. Tickets are $15-$25, and are available by phone (773-980-6391) or online at secure.force.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More info at NewLeafTheatre.org. (Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes, includes an intermission)
All photos by Tom McGrath
behind the scenes
Jessica Hutchinson (director); Marni Keenan (production manager); Amanda Frechette (stage manager); Tamara Silverleaf (asst. director); Michelle Lilly (set design); Jared B. Moore (lighting); Nick Keenan (sound design); Rachel Sypniewski (costumes); Jeffrey Gardner (dramaturg); Eva Breneman (dialect coach); Tom McGrath (photos)