Even Stoppard's most accessible works (The Real Thing, the movie Shakespeare in Love) fairly reek with erudition. Invention, having its U.S. East Coast premiere at Philadelphia's Wilma Theater, is no exception. Eloquent and witty, it's also intellectually challenging. On one level, the play is about A. E. Housman, the Victorian poet (A Shropshire Lad) and scholar, at age 77 dreaming he has returned to the Oxford of his youth. It's also about the love of language and the language of love (i.e., the earliest Latin love poetry). There are some snooze-inducing stretches dealing with English academe, but overall the deeply rewarding Wilma production sparkles.
--By William Tynan