A Sublime “Arcadia”

Dec 8, 2012 at Judy Bayley Theatre, UNLV Performing Arts Center

Here are the great things about Nevada Conservatory Theatre and UNLV Performing Arts Center productions:

  • They are presented on-campus at UNLV. Great location, great parking, great university-ambience, great box office, great prices.
  • Medium-sized house (Judy Bayley Theatre) feels like a metropolitan theatre yet still intimate; not a bad seat anywhere.
  • Renderings by the wardrobe, set design and lighting design teams are on display in the atrium for the audience to explore. Colorful drawings, fabric samples, and scale models of the stage and sets show how these show elements were conceived and built. It’s like a backstage tour! And you can touch them!
  • Variety. Straight plays to musicals, they have it all.
  • Casts feature a mix of theatre majors, community members and theatre professionals.

All that’s missing is…well, nothing.

True, they don’t have motorized moving stage parts or computerized hi-tech set antics, but that, thankfully, allows the focus to stay on the human element — the talent. The actors and the storyline, not technology, are the entertainment here.

All of these elements were in evidence in the production of “Arcadia”, a play by Tom Stoppard.

“Arcadia” by Nevada Conservatory Theatre at UNLV’s Judy Bayley Theatre. Pictured (L to R): Jordan Bondurant, Joshua Nadler, Melissa Ritz, Angela Janas, Darren Krattli, Gerrad Taylor. Photo credit: Devin Pierce Scheef.

The script was an intellectual exploration of physics and philosophy, both challenging and rewarding to follow. While dense with academic and theoretical concepts, it offered equal parts humor and word play.  The audience laughed from the first two minutes of dialogue and continued the positive reaction throughout the show.

The sets and costumes were feasts for the eyes. The set was an open, airy minimalistic design evocative of the period. The costumes were detailed and period-appropriate, right down to the shoes. The clothing was constructed in vibrant colors to support each actor’s character. Props were thoughtfully created, including the large book that was central to the storyline.

The actors breezily conversed in natural-sounding British accents; diction and projection were excellent to a person. The actors made extensive dialogue interesting to the ear by varying pitch, volume and speed appropriately. John Maltese’s vocal expression made even his long passages of technical information easier to grasp and digest.

Body language furthered the character development. Of note, Joshua Nadler’s stiff, affected, uppity movement style visually corroborated his character’s verbal insecure uptightness. Jordan Fenn’s wide-eyed fear clearly expressed his character, without needing words.

Some of the longer dialogue scenes, in which the actors stayed in one position, sitting in chairs around the table, seemed a little static.  Perhaps some movement might give those long minutes of discussion a bit more life.

The only moment when the audience grumbled was when a real cigarette was lit and smoked on stage. Apparently this was bothersome to some of the patrons.

Despite these tiny drawbacks, the acting was excellent, onstage interaction was smooth and entertainingly-presented, production value was high, and the script itself was educational. Certainly a top-notch theatrical production, and a very enjoyable experience. “Arcadia” was another feather in the NCT/UNLV PAC hat.

So, is the big, new, marble performing arts center down the road too expensive, seats too far from the stage, too many balconies, lacking intimacy, not offering all plays you want nor featuring the local talent you want to support? Head to UNLV for everything you’re looking for.

Audience: all ages

Rating: A

3 thoughts on “A Sublime “Arcadia””

  1. I’ve always enjoyed the shows that I’ve seen at Nevada Conservatory Theatre. The acting work is strong, the designs impressive, and the variety of plays is always interesting. Great point about seeing shows at UNLV vs seeing shows at the Smith Center! Unless you are sitting in the front few rows of the orchestra at the Smith Center, the seats are painfully far from the stage.

  2. Nice review Andrea,
    As President of the Board at The Nevada Conservatory Theatre and on behalf of the faculty, cast and crew, we really appreciate your comments.
    Hope to meet you soon
    Ray Sarbacker

  3. I am following your posts from afar..way far…jax., FL I danced there and choreographed 30 some years. I wrote the entertainment reviews for the Jacksonville Times Union in 2006 after I came home and it is great to see a fellow performer write with such an astute eye for all aspects of a performance . You write beautifully and your criticizm is both thoughtful and constructive. Good stuff! I am going to look you up next time I come out. Lisa

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