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Santa Monica College Presents Stoppard's Play "Arcadia"  

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By Lookout Staff

March 13, 2017 -- Tom Stoppard's play "Arcadia," which begins a short run at Santa Monica College Friday, explores the relationship between the past and present.

Staged by SMC's Theatre Arts Department from March 17 through March 26 on the main campus, the play has been called everything from too clever and unrealistic to an emotional masterpiece by one of the greatest British playwrights of the past 50 years.

The action in "Arcadia" shifts back and forth between 1809/1812 and the present day and uses props from both eras that remain on stage as the players debate scientific, literary and romantic mysteries.

The earlier action takes place at the dawn of Romanticism and centers on the relationship between Thomasina Coverly, a precocious teenager in love with science, and her tutor Septimus Hodge, a friend of Lord Byron, whose off-stage presence pervades the play.

The present day action unfolds with the visit of two strangers to the house --Hannah Jarvis, a writer investigating a hermit the teenager once drew on a blueprint for the gardens, and Bernard Nightingale, a literature professor researching a mysterious chapter in Byron's life.

The juxtaposed scenes allow Stoppard to explore the timeless themes of order and chaos, certainty and chance.

"Arcadia" -- which was the winner of the 1995 New York Drama Critics’ Circle and the 1994 Olivier awards for Best Play -- has garnered mixed reviews that have improved over time.

When the play opened, the Daily Mail called it "too clever by about two-and-three-quarters," adding that "one comes away instructed with more than one can usefully wish to know."

Eight months later, a critic for the Daily Telegraph wrote, "I have never left a play more convinced that I had just witnessed a masterpiece."

When the play was revived in 2009, a critic for The Independent predicted it would be recognized "as the greatest play of its time".

The SMC production, which takes place at the Theatre Arts Main Stage on the SMC main campus, 1900 Pico Boulevard, is directed by Perviz Sawoski.

Show times are 8 p.m. on Friday, March 17 and March 24, and Saturday, March 18 and March 25. Matinees are at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 19, and on Saturday, March 25, and Sunday, March 26. A preview is scheduled at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15.

Advance tickets range from $12 to $15 ($8 for preview), plus a service charge, and can be purchased by going to or by calling (310) 434-4319 or (310) 434-3005 Monday through Friday. Tickets are $3 higher at the door before performances. Parking is free on Friday evenings and weekends.

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