THE INVENTION OF LOVE
by Tom Stoppard
American Premiere, A.C.T. 2000
"Stoppard's knotty structure draws out director Perloff's
most meticulous care... a perfect evening and a big hit indeed."
–– DENNIS HARVEY, VARIETY
STEVEN ANTHONY JONES
JASON BUTLER HARNER
W. FRANCIS WALTERS
BRIAN KEITH RUSSELL
LOY ARCENAS, SCENERY
DEBORAH DRYDEN, COSTUMES
JAMES F. INGALLS, LIGHTING
MICHAEL ROTH, ORIGINAL MUSIC AND SOUND SCORE
GARTH HEMPHILL, SOUND
PAUL WALSH, DRAMATURG
DEBORAH SUSSEL, DIALECT CONSULTANT
MERLY LIND SHAW, CASTING
ELLEN NOVACK, NEW YORK CASTING
RICK ECHOLS, HAIR AND MAKEUP
TOM CLYDE, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
THE INVENTION OF LOVE, A.C.T, 2000
Photo of James Cromwell by Joan Marcus, Stagebill cover
"Through all the dense clouds of language that fill The Invention of Love, the wary, frozen expression of an Oxford classics student shines with the glittering clarity of ice. The face belongs to A.E. Housman , as played by Jason Butler Harner in the American premiere of Tom Stoppard's intimate, heroic and sometimes daunting 1997 memory play about Housman at the Geary Theater. Harner gives a beautifully faceted performance as a young man gleaming with ambition for scholarship and clouded by his repressed sexual feelings for a fellow male student. In Stoppard's multilayered script, even one splendid actor isn't enough to encompass this fictionalized treatment of the English poet and classics scholar (1859-1936) best known for A Shropshire Lad.
Film actor James Cromwell (Babe, L.A. Confidential, The Green Mile) plays Housman at 77, all ramrod-straight posture and polished speeches that balance rectitude and regret. The play opens with Housman's boat ride across a shimmering River Styx just after his death. From there it sends him shuttling back and forth through time, a thicket of classical allusions and imaginary meetings, including several witty and poignant ones with his younger self.
Invention's soul finally belongs to Harner, back at the Geary after his fine work in Long Day's Journey Into Night. Poised in silent pain when Moses turns away or beaming out his ideas on Propertius and Catullus, he catches every nuance in Housman's ardent, doomed imagination. In what may be the show's defining moment, he turns a speech on Latin word order into a plummet toward the abyss.
For Stoppard, love and language are always tightly bound. When Harner pulls syntax itself apart, the listener goes plunging with him into this demanding and rewarding play's depths."
–– STEVEN WINN, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
Tom Stoppard and Carey Perloff in conversation with the Exploratorium's Robert Semper, discussing A.C.T.'s production of
THE HARD PROBLEM, Stoppard's drama of sex, science, and supercomputing.