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Release: Immediate

University Theatres stages Stoppard time-jumping comedy, 'Arcadia'

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University Theatres Mainstage series will present Tom Stoppard's time-jumping comic mystery "Arcadia," opening at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, in E.C. Mabie Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building. Other performances will be at 8 p.m. Nov. 7, 8 and 12-15, and at 3 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 9 and 16.

"Arcadia" is full of the wit, word-play and surprise that audiences have come to expect from one of Britain's most playful and sophisticated playwrights -- a playwright who is brainy and yet appeals to a broad audience.

The play is an intellectual who-dunnit, wrapped around a romance, as modern-day scholars attempt to determine whether Lord Byron had an affair -- and perhaps committed a murder -- at a country estate in 1909. Romance, delusion, chaos theory, turtles and Newtonian physics converge to make "Arcadia" a wild and provocative romp.

Calling "Arcadia" Stoppard's "best play so far," New Yorker critic John Lahr wrote: "Stoppard, whose stock-in-trade is parody, which is skepticism in cap and bells, has found a metaphor that takes him beyond parody to vision . . . (that) pits the heart against the head in a subtle theatrical equation, which factors out into a moving ambiguity."

Lahr calls the play's transitions from present to past and back in a single setting "an enormous theatrical feat -- a kind of intellectual mystery story -- in which Stoppard provides the audience with the exhilarating illusion of omniscience. We become cosmic detectives, outside time, solving the riddle of history from the clues and connections we see, but the characters, who are caught in time, do not."

Describing Stoppard as "a superb entertainer," Jack Kroll wrote in Newsweek, "In 'Arcadia' he brilliantly entwines past and present in a double helix of emotion and thought..examining basic oppositions within the Western mind: classic-romantic, free will-determinism, love-lust, science-art, order-chaos. 'Arcadia' is part detective story, part sex comedy, part classic farce, part intellectual thriller, part historical drama, part poignant tragedy. . . . Stoppard's thirst to know affirms that love is the deepest form of knowing."

"Everything about this play is a treat," says director Eric Forsythe, a faculty member in the UI department of theatre arts. "I go to rehearsals and come away with more energy than I had going in. And certainly, for a university community there is a great deal of reference to history, to science, to ethics, to research, how research works, academic in-fighting, the accuracy and relevance of research."

Forsythe concurs with the critics' assessment of Stoppard's balancing of intellect and humanity, which makes 'Arcadia' his most satisfying play. "The reason why 'Arcadia' is such an event is that, opposed to his earlier plays, there's a much greater sense of heart in this play, which contrasts with the verbal puzzles, oddities, puns and arcane references. It's the marriage of the heart and the intellect that fascinates me so much about this play."

"Every time we have a Stoppard play we are amazed at the breadth of this man's learning, and how he can somehow incorporate all that information and knowledge into a play and make it compelling. And here, I think, he's found the ideal way to do that. I find it the culmination and fulfillment of a career."

Other artistic contributors to the University Theatres Mainstage production of "Arcadia" are set designer Dan Nemteanu, costume designer Erin Howell-Gritsch, lighting designer Bryon Winn, sound designer Mark Bruckner and choreographer Rachelle Tsachor.

Tickets to "Arcadia" are $14 ($7 for UI students, senior citizens and audience members 17 and younger). Tickets are available in advance from the Hancher box office. Any remaining tickets for each performance will be on sale one hour before curtain time at the Theatre Building box office.

Tickets are also available at a 25-percent discount as part of a University Theatres Mainstage three-play subscription package. Other options in the subscription package are Tennessee Williams' "The Eccentricities of a Nightingale," Feb. 5-15; the world premiere of "Salt" by Migdalia Cruz, Feb. 26 through March 8; and Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," April 2-12.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.