Sophia and I were lucky last night because our friend, MaryAnn, scored some great tickets to the Preview show of “Two Men of Florence,” the first play by Richard Goodwin. We ended up in the first row center orchestra seats, actually, right in front of the author. Thanks, MaryAnn!
It’s an intriguing play, which pits the scientific passion of Galileo against the vainglorious pursuits of Pope Urban VIII, who attempts at first to bring a “dialog” of ideas into the Church — owing to his magnanimous benificence — but later realizes that he has accidentally opened the gates of Reason which threaten the very foundations of a Church built on absolutist devotion. The sets of the play are remarkable, including a latticework of walls full of candles, and circular center stage upon which revolve the desks, chairs, and armatures of Galileo’s inventions. A semi-transparent curtain is occasionally whisked around this center of action, sometimes serving as a projection screen, or an effective scene changing device. The staging and movements are delightfully paced, with nary a figure making absurd entries and exits on wires or wheeled pavilions.
The performances were excellent as well, not only the two lead actors, but also the supporting cast. The Pope’s friend and confident , and Galileo’s daughter, were especially standouts, in particular the moments when the daughter sings in Latin. Jay Sanders’ Galileo is fiery and sensitive, managing to convey his love of philosophy and the natural order of things without sounding snobbish or boorish. The rich language provided by Goodwin really shines through here, giving Sanders a line like this:
‘The moon. Full-bottomed Eve. Crafted by God as comfort to the fugitive earth. Let me see if I can peek beneath the hem of your borrowed radiance.’