Arcadia is a 1993 play by Tom Stoppard about the relationship between past and present, between order and disorder, and the certainty of knowledge. It has been cited by many critics as the finest play from one of the most significant contemporary playwrights in English.
I learned about the play whilst in college. Friends had seen it in London and Chicago. It sounded intriguing and right up my alley. 1995, Junior year at Notre Dame, I took a theater class for my major in English. One of our assignments was to attend a play and write a review. The thought of attending a play on campus seemed lame, and I planned to head to Chicago with a friend to take in a show. Something came up. My friend went — I did not. But she brought back the Playbill. With her help, and after much chatting, I whipped up a realistic, well written account … and got an A.
Whether I felt guilty or proud is unclear. Probably more proud than guilty. I rationalized it. “I would have loved to have seen it if I had the time!” Well, the time finally arrived. It is on Broadway right now and a friend and I checked it out the other night. I had been out late the prior night and was exhausted. 3 hour show after work — 7 pm to 10 pm. And it’s an intellectual story … the kind you really need to pay attention and listen and think. So, it was a bit of a struggle. Despite it having hottie ass Billy Crudup. And several other fine actors.
I came home and read Wikipedia to fill in some holes and answer my questions. And then I crashed – faceplant – into my bed. I’d like to read the play again some time soon, and I’ve got to find and re-read that fake review I wrote 16 years ago…
Some quotes from Arcadia:
“We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. but there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it.”
“It’s the wanting to know that makes us matter.”
“When we have found all the meanings and lost all the mysteries, we will be alone, on an empty shore.”