What I love about playwright Tom Stoppard’s 1993 play “Arcadia, ” currently receiving an excellent revival production at Court Theatre in Hyde Park, is how wonderfully human and alive the work is despite covering some intellectually dense and potentially soporific topics like mathematics and physics, art history and the fine tradition of English landscape gardening. That’s because Stoppard knows that no matter how many great ideas you might have for a play—and in this play there are enough to exhaust an academic thesis let alone a 300-word review—you still need great characters to deliver them. In “Arcadia” you get not one but two sets of absorbing characters—living in 1809 and today—all struggling for the same thing: answers to the inexplicable little questions that plague the heart as well as the mind. And if that doesn’t sound enticing enough, know that “Arcadia”—concerning a set of present-day intellectuals and accidental lovers obsessed with researching the lives of a set of nineteenth-century lovers and accidental intellectuals—unfolds in scenes that vacillate between the two centuries until at one point in the play both sets of characters inhabit the stage simultaneously and, so it seems, the same moment in time. How Stoppard pulls that one off is worth the price of admission alone. By contrast, designer Matthew York’s set is a disappointment: a three-quarter in the oval-shaped playing platform surrounded by nothing but an oppressive black wall. All of “Arcadia” is set within a spacious English country house study overlooking the same picturesque gardens, but the design gives absolutely no sense of this physical beauty or of the estate’s grandeur, which has supposedly attracted poets, authors, intellectuals and academics for two centuries. But this is a picky cavil for Court’s otherwise near-perfect production that ultimately provides a smart, sexy and satisfying evening at the theater. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
“Arcadia” runs at Court Theatre, 5535 South Ellis, (773)753-4472, through June 10.