John's Reviews > Arcadia

Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
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May 19, 2012

it was ok
Read from May 19 to 24, 2012

I would like to make it clear, right out front, that I adore some of Tom Stoppard's work. But this is insufferable, elitist piffle. The fact that it is so highly praised in so many circles confirms, to my mind, that the arts, like the rest of our culture, are utterly degenerate.

Kurt Vonnegut once described the job of a writer as being "a good date." With "Arcadia," Stoppard wears too much cologne, won't stop talking about himself, blows smoke in our face, farts in the elevator, and seems to think that going Dutch is the height of romance.

I keep picturing a reasonably well-educated audience shelling out $50-plus per ticket only to find out that they should have studied up on the landscape architecture of the early 19th century, the minutia of Lord Byron's dissolute indiscretions, and the basics of chaos theory. I had the advantage of being familiar with the latter. I had to turn to various references for the rest. (Really, Tom? I'm an uneducated bumpkin because I'm unfamiliar with Capability Brown!? Shmoiks!) Whereas I have the Web at my disposal to elucidate these subjects with little effort, one can imagine the frustration of audiences suffering through this complacent mess 20 years ago.

I suppose Stoppard might earn higher marks if I though he was having some fun at the expense of his audience. As it stands, this play reads the way Charles Ives sounds: very clever and equally unpleasant. It took me two days to chew my way through this mess and, at the end of it, I didn't feel the slightest connection to any of the characters or themes presented. Stoppard can do much better, and shame on the critics who have praised the emperor's clothes this time around. (Docked one star for wasting my time on the antics of a sad clown such as Lord Byron, who ought to be memorialized in day-glo on velvet.)
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01/29/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Bob (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bob Klein A lot of the references went over my head as well, but I never felt you really needed to have a firm grasp of them to enjoy the play. I knew little about chaos theory and less about Byron but I thought that enough context was given, and what was important was that the characters were passionate about them. In the case of chaos theory, for instance, the only really important fact was that Thomasina was way ahead of her time. I guess I just saw this as a fun, sometimes beautiful story with extra bits thrown in for the nerds.


message 2: by ah (new) - rated it 2 stars

ah I agree


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