Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
The diminutive but mighty Live Oak Theater of Berkeley is courageously and superbly performing Tom Stoppard’s major encyclopedic opus: ARCADIA.
This ambitious undertaking distinguishes the Live Oak Company amongst its peers of community theaters; it is one of the few that has the hubris to attempt polishing such a gem; miraculously, they mustered the talent and directorship to tackle this strenuous, brilliant script by whom many consider to be the living incarnation of Oscar Wilde.
Robert Estes has honed and crafted an amazingly fluid performance from his principals who deliver precisely chiseled and comprehensible lines in a properly clipped upper class British accent.
Stoppard is not easy material: his characters, were they to pause on the set and submit to an IQ test, would all record genius scores rivaling Tesla, Feynman and Oppenheimer; their dexterity with language, wit and rhetoric reflects an intelligence that would make most of us feel like Australopithecus.
Christopher Kelly, as the arrogant, expansive and expressive researcher Bernard Nightingale, is to be congratulated for his sterling performance.
Although most community theaters hover somewhere between bankruptcy and penury, the Live Oak Company and Costumer Designer Hilary Seeley seemed to have the resources to accurately and tastefully match costume with rank, period and personality.
This reviewer, an engineer by education and a mathematician by profession, was pleasantly stunned to hear the characters correctly and convincingly articulate the intricacies of Fermat’s Last Theorem, Regressions, Recursions, Logistics Equations, Carnot’s Thermodynamics and the Entropy Death of the Universe.
Sure enough, the Director had prudently called in an expert: a Mathematics Consultant videlicet: Digeratti Morgan Brown.
ARCADIA is intelligent, sophisticated wit that will challenge your ear, your intellect and your audio processor; it will deliver aerobic exercises to your Broca’s region.
Stoppard is the greatest thing to happen to English theatre since Shaw went on to pick daisies in the Elysian Fields; to find Stoppard in the Bay Area, performed this well, is a rare event and certainly not to be missed.
For tickets to an enchanting, erudite celebration of the English Language and Western Civilization, call the box office at 510-649-5999 or surf over to the Live Oak website: www.aeofberkeley.org.