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Arise, Ye Prisoners of Tom Stoppard

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Stoppard’s double-fisted grab for domestic detail and the vast sweep of history makes the show’s fit in space nearly as awkward as its fit in time. Jack O’Brien creates some bravura effects by scaling up the action on the Beaumont stage to epic proportions. (For Part Three, you can make that epic with a capital E: With its heavy use of projected titles and a driving, episodic quality, Salvage has a tinge of Brecht.) But the intimate scenes often look marooned in all that vastness, and it seems rude to laugh at some witty dinner-party aperçu when you can see a line of raggedy serfs upstage.

Nevertheless, O’Brien and Lincoln Center have pulled off a feat as impressive as it is improbable, assembling an extraordinary company for nine months of rehearsals, performances, and all-day marathons. The real achievement of the show, for me, isn’t in the writing. It’s that so many of the city’s best actors—and many thousands of its serious theatergoers—are getting a taste of repertory theater, the richest way to present and to see such plays. This aspect of the show isn’t getting much attention just now, and maybe in the end it won’t be a harbinger of things to come. Though if The Coast of Utopia teaches anything, it’s that revolutions don’t have to be sudden or noisy to work.

The Coast of Utopia
By Tom Stoppard. Lincoln Center Theater.


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