‘Arcadia is a very funny, very smart play,” says director Sheri Lee Miller, affectionately describing Tom Stoppard’s masterpiece about love, sex, mathematics, art, architecture and the power of intellectual imagination.
Set in England, partly in the early 1800s and partly in the present, Arcadia enthusiastically namedrops a veritable parade of Regency-era historical scientists, mathematicians, artists and poets. “To that end,” says Miller, who is directing the play for Cinnabar Theater, “this play gives audiences a chance, not just to see a great show, but to play a really good game of Jeopardy at the same time.”
Arcadia opens this weekend, and Miller—who’s directing it for her second time in 16 years—knows that her new production cannot escape comparisons to the one she did in 1999 at Actors Theater. That production, an enormous success hit for AT (absorbed 10 years ago into the current 6th Street Playhouse), is a show people still talk about as one of the most impressive, eye-opening productions ever seen
in the North Bay. Miller knows
that with this new production, expectations are high.
She’s not worried.
“I’m not directing Arcadia again to recapture something from the experience of doing it a decade-and-a-half ago,” she says. “I just love the play, and I wanted to revisit it. There’s always more to plumb from a good play, and it’s been a really long time.
“Unfortunately,” she laughs, “I don’t remember any of my original staging, none of it! But I do remember certain line-readings very well. Part of the challenge of doing a play a second time is allowing the new cast of actors to find their own voices, and not to accidentally force the voices of
the previous cast onto them. Fortunately, I have brilliant actors, then and now—and I trust them totally. It’s definitely going to be a different kind of production from the first one. I hope it will be every bit as wonderful, and I believe it will be—if not even a little bit better.”
Miller says that theatergoers not yet ready to compete on Jeopardy will still find plenty to enjoy in Arcadia. Viewed by critics as one of the greatest plays of the 20th century, it’s about much more than facts, figures and history.
“What this play is about,” she says, “is the human hunger for answers, for discovery, for learning, for expanding our breadth of understanding and our place in the universe.
“Everybody can relate to that.”