Arcadia. The title of this play recalls an idyllic pastoral simplicity of the sort presented in Virgil’s Eclogues. It is any place, real or imagined, that offers peace. Stoppard’s Arcadia takes the shape of an English country home, Sidley Park. We see the goings on at Sidley Park in two periods as the play shifts from the early 19th century into a modern period. Both worlds feature a dedication to learning, love, and mystery; both move towards uncertainty with varying degrees of delight.
In 1809 thirteen-year-old Thomasina Coverly is a child prodigy on the verge of resolving mathematical ambiguities and naively approaching theories on chaos and thermodynamics. Her tutor Septimus Hodge, a friend of the rising Lord Byron, has much to do to challenge his pupil and balance his relationships with assorted others: a reckless gardener, guests of the house (including an overly solicitous wife), and Thomasina’s fetching mother, Lady Croom. We witness how the events of a few days in 1809 and 1812 can become an obsession for those who follow. In the present day we meet Coverly decendants and academics who converge on the Sidley Park grounds: Hannah Jarvis, a writer and researcher investigating the Sidley Park hermit, and Bernard Nightingale, an English professor bent on unveiling a darker history of Byron. We note how the characters of Sidley Park—past and present—are invested in one another and the inevitable difficulties of attempting to embrace worlds not our own.
— Michele Osherow, Resident Dramaturg