Heading to the theatre on opening night of ‘Da Vinci’ I expected to see at least a picture of the Mona Lisa or “The Last Supper” or anything else by the illustrious Da Vinci. But playwright/director Mary Zimmerman had a different idea. Surprisingly in this case, what you expect isn’t always what you get. What she gives us is pure unadulterated theatre.
Of the 5,000 pages from the 28 existing volumes of Leonardo's notes, 50 volumes of text and drawings were transferred by him. It is from these 5,000 pages of these volumes that Zimmerman culled her art form using actual notes and drawings from the pages to weave it all together. Ergo, "The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci"
|(from left) Wai Yim, Adeoye, Andrea San Miguel, and Louise Lamson|
Oft time referred to as a ‘Renaissance’ man, his books, notes and ‘Folios shed light on his interests in science, art (of course) anatomy, physics, architecture, weaponry, designs for workable machines like the bicycle, helicopter, submarine and military tank that would not come to use for centuries and…'the study of the flying ability of a bat’.
|Adeone and Andrea San Miguel|
The man was a genius! And the entire cast and crew at the Old Globe, with virtuoso direction from Mary Zimmerman presents a multi-faceted glimpse into Leonardo’s inner most thoughts about life and death or even love, that "great love springs from great knowledge of the beloved object, and if you little know it, you will be able to love it only little or not at all." DaVinci was never married and led a celibite life, so it was understood.
Costumes, (based on the original designs by Allison Reeds) by Mara Blumenfeld (with assist by Charlotte Devaux). Sound design by Michael Bodeen. Lighting design by T.J. Gerckens. Scenic design by Scott Bradley. Original music by Miriam Sturm and Michael Borden, with acrobatic defying positions (yes there were acrobatics included) by consultant Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi.
|(from left) John Gregorio, Kasey Foster, Andrea San Miguel, and Adeoye in The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci|
Eight actors, five men and three women all sharing the stage as a Leonardo, each with their part to tell, some more, others less, each assuming another faze of his life, some amazing acrobats, showing his perspective on weight, while some were hanging from one or another part of the scenic and prop/set design or by desk drawers that pull out acting as the backdrop on either side of the stage, from top to bottom where the actors would hang, sit, climb or move from draw to draw. Speaking of draws, there is a drawbridge as well as a swing bar that is used. Singing and dancing, bands, balls of rope stretching across and bisecting each other giving the appearance of his multifaceted life from a childhood dream of a falcon pecking him on the face to the dream he had about walking in the hills, as a boy, and finding the opening to a cave but was afraid to go in.
|Cast of Leonardo Da Vinci|
This reviewer was more impressed with the scenic design (it was so all encompassing that the eyes were drawn into each movement of the cast; Adeoye, Christopher Donahue, Kasey Foster, John Gregorio, Anthony Irons, Louise Lamson, Andrea San Miguel and Wai Yim) than what was being said, some of which was difficult to understand even with my aids.
All in all, it was an experience so rich in visuals that almost took my breath away and without even knowing it the 90 minute or so experience is still difficult to explain. One must see to believe what a true theatre experience looks and feels like. It’s not a play. It’s not a comedy. It’s not a musical nor is it drama. It’s a piece that requires imagination beyond the realm.
Originally staged at the Goodman Theatre in 1993, this revival runs through Feb. 26th
|Kasey Foster and Christopher Donahue|
When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Through Feb. 26
Where: Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage, Old Globe, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park, San Diego
Tickets: $33 to $116
Phone: (619) 234-5623
Photo: Jim Cox