The Invention of Love

The Invention of Love,Tom StoppardTHE INVENTION OF LOVE

CHARACTER: Moses Jackson

American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco

January 6 – February 13, 2000

WRITTEN BY: Tom Stoppard

DIRECTED BY: Carey Perloff


James Cromwell – AEH
Steven Anthony Jones – Charon/Member of Selection Committee
Jason Butler Harner – Housman
Gord Rand – Pollard
Garret Dillahunt – Jackson
Charles Dean – Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University/Pattison/Harris
Michael Santo – Pater/Stead
Matthew Boston – A Balliol Student/Chamberlain
Ken Ruta – Ruskin/Labouchère
W. Francis Walters – Jowett/Chairman of Selection Committee
Brian Keith Russell – Ellis/Postgate/Jerome
Lorri Holt – Katharine
Marco Barricelli – Bunthorne/Wilde


“Invention” has some slow going, especially in the first act. Once an erudite Charon (Steven Anthony Jones as the River Styx boatman) has delivered Housman to his des tination, the old scholar glimpses scenes of his Oxford youth. The young Housman and his friends row by in a boat. Famous black-robed dons and rectors cavort about with croquet mallets and badminton rackets, playing at their idle intellectual games. Towering bookshelves float weightlessly across the stage.

In the young Housman’s vigilant attention to “corrupted” Latin texts and his helpless infatuation with an athlete and science student named Moses John Jackson (a quietly magnetic Garret Dillahunt), Stoppard builds his themes. Secrets lie embedded in lives just as they do in manuscripts. [SF Gate]

The play opens with A.E. Housman on the river Styx. Charon floats across a stage made gloomy under watery light. He thinks he’s looking for two men, “a poet and a scholar,” but Housman is both. By Housman’s death in 1936, he was considered the best classical scholar in England; during the 1890s, as a clerk in a patent office, he also published a famous book of poems called The Shropshire Lad. The poems betray a squelched but lifelong passion for Moses Jackson, one of Housman’s Oxford chums. Since England in the 1890s was also witness to Oscar Wilde’s rise and fall — Wilde’s flamboyant aestheticism, his open homosexuality — the play becomes not just a memory play of Housman’s closeted affections but also a drama of tweedy tradition vs. the colorful burgeoning 20th century, of classicism vs. romanticism. [SF Weekly]