Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Two Men of Florence"

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note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Larry Stark


"Two Men of Florence"

by Richard N. Goodwin
Directed by Edward Hall

Scenic & Costume Design by Francis O'Connor
Lighting Design by Ben Ormerod
Sound Design by Matt McKenzie
Composer Simon Slater
Casting by Alaine Alldaffer
Production Stage Manager Gail P. Luna
Stage Manager Carola Morrone

Galileo Galilei..................................Jay O. Sanders
Maffeo Barberini later Pope Urban VIII...........Edward Hermann
Marie Celeste...................................Molly Schreiber
Bellarmine/Wackher/Landini/Senator.............Peter Van Wagner
Bruno/Senator/Richelieu/Firenzuola/Simplicio...Diego Arciniegas
Benedetto Castelli...............................Joel Rainwater
Ciampoli.........................................Dermot Crowley
Kepler/Young Barberini...............................Andy Paris
Niccolini.......................................Jeremiah Kissel
Cosimo II/Senator....................................Nat DeWolf
Louis XIII/Senator/Nobleman/Lorenzo Bernini........Joe Curnutte
Ensemble........................................Teddy Bourgeois

The Boston University Theatre has one of Boston's largest stages, but Francis O'Connor deftly solves the vastness problem with a floor-to-ceiling circular scrim that swirls around the action, splits and disappears, serves as screen and as parchment for projected writing, explodes at one point in flames, and deftly moves the many scenes in "Two Men of Florence" from city to city around Italy. Outside it are three walls of transparent nitches for hundreds of candles that can become the doors of churches or prison bars. Behind all this is a dark cyclorama on which the starry heavens appear. But in several scenes a circular revolve can set people walking around one another while, in the center, Galileo hard at work spins in the opposite direction. At some points, what seem like fairy-light stars drop from the heavens, some about the shoulders of actors. All of this mirrors the real world as it must have been in the mind of Galileo --- the first scientist of the modern world.

The other man of Florence is Pope Urban VIII (Edward Hermann), who gave Galileo (Jay O. Sanders) to inquisitors because his proofs that the Earth was not the center of our solar system were, obviously, heresy. Richard N. Goodwin's play becomes, in Act II, a debate of these two serious thinkers. Urban places a wafer beneath Galileo's microscope and demands "Can you see the Body of Christ any better with it?" to which Galileo responds "There cannot be Two 'truths'!" Both men are blazingly, violently wrong, but evenly matched. Supported by an excellent cast, all luxuriating in O'Connor's exquisite costumes, the two stars bring alive the two truths of their time, which are still at war even today.

The cast-list is a dizzying compendium of historical figures and church heirarchies, with many costume- and character-changes --- most of them scene-swellers surrounding the main event. As it unfolds, Edward Hermann is at pains to insist that Urban, aware of "facts", nevertheless defended a valid position, while Jay O. Sanders edges Galileo's scientific certainties with a genuine faith in his God and his Church. Their arguments are a bit long-winded but fascinating nonetheless. (And Galileo's "toys" are a gas!)

"Two Men of Florence" (6 March - 5 April)
THE HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY
The Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, BOSTON MA
1 (617)266-0800

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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