Monday, November 7, 2011

Domino Players' 'Arcadia' is thought-provoking theater at its best

By Cheryl Thornburg
  I just attended my first performance by Albright College's Domino Players and it won't be the last. The production of Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia" was stylish, polished -- superb. The play itself is challenging, with complex, fast-paced  dialogue -- done in an English accent -- and even more complex ideas to ponder.
  Set on a country estate in Derbyshire, England, Stoppard takes the audience on a journey between two eras -- 1809 and the present -- with a cast of fascinating characters trying to unravel the mysteries of life and the universe. 
  At the heart of the 1809 story is Thomasina Coverly, a gifted young lady, whose scientific theory is ahead of its time. Taylor Rae Cole is delightful as the precocious and bubbly young teen, with just the right hint of child becoming woman.
  Ryan McCarthy plays her tutor Septimus with ease, seemingly channeling an ancestor from two centuries ago. Whether being a doting teacher to Thomasina or a lover to the unseen Mrs. Chater, McCarthy is believable and charming, in a scoundrel sort of way.
  Making the most of a great part, Sheryl Smith adds a touch of humor to the seductive Lady Croom, Thomasina's mother.
  Devon Taylor  is spot-on as the cuckolded would-be poet, Ezra Chater, who is easily manipulated by Septimus.
  In the present day, Szalene Anthony delivers a first-rate performance as Hannah Jarvis, the author researching a hermit who lived on the property in the 19th century.
  Trying to get into her good graces to share research is glory-seeking Bernard Nightingale, played by Logan Toomey.  His Nightingale is appropriately devious as the academic who wants to prove that Lord Byron stayed at the estate.
  Jason Brown is also a standout as Valentine Coverly, a descendant of Thomasina's family, who is also exploring scientific pursuits.
  Rounding out the cast are Sheldon Carpenter as as Jellaby, Anthony DiCrecchio as Richard Noakes, Tyler Ryan as Captain Brice, Karina Grossman as Chloe Coverly, and John Tallarida as Gus and Augustus Coverly.
  Hats off to dialect coaches for this production, the English accents were not forced or overdone as often happens.
  Director  Jeffrey Lentz elicited professional performances from this student cast.  The set design by Cocol Bernal  seems simple, but it is elegant and sophisticated in evoking the essence of the country home and its garden. The costumes by Paula E. Trimpey also strike the right note in both centuries.
  It is easy to see why Albright was recently named one of the Top 25 Artistic Schools in the country by Newsweek.
  Unfortunately, Domino Players thought-provoking "Arcadia" with its exploration of truth, love, fame, and much more, ended  its run Sunday. But Domino Players have more in store for this season.
  The 24-Hour Theatre Project is set for Nov. 20 at 8 p.m. in which the Domino players  create, cast, rehearse, stage and perform a new work in just one day's time.
  On Dec. 6 and 8 at 7:30 p.m., the students from the theater department will showcase short plays by minimalist Samuel Beckett.
  In February, the Players will present "On the Verge" by Eric Overmeyer and in April, "A Streetcar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams.
  To purchase tickets for future productions,  call the Albright College box office at 610-921-7547.
  The Center for the Arts is located on the Albright College campus at 13th and Bern Streets, Reading, Pa. For more information or disabled assistance, please call 610-921-7526, or visit


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