Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
The Life of Galileo
So much is special about the production of The Life of Galileo, is now playing in the Allen Theatre, Cleveland Play House, PlayhouseSquare. First, the company has renovated and moved into the 500-seat Allen Theatre, which is in Cleveland's theater district. The renovation kept the 1920s look of the interior, the stunning ceiling paintings, and the large rambling lobby. However, modern technical renovation makes this one of the most exciting facilities to be home to any production. Interestingly, Cleveland Play House decided to open its new theatre with The Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht, translated by the English playwright David Edgar from a literal translation by Deborah Gearing.
This production, in part, originated in the Asolo Repertory Theatre, Sarasota, Florida. However, much of the cast is from the Cleveland area. The Play House production staff is responsible for the sets, lighting scenic painting, sound, special effects and wigs used in this production.
Michael Donald Edwards directed both productions. Edwards made this production as relevant to 2011 as possible. The anachronisms bring the story of the life of Galileo to our doorstep.
Clint Ramos (scenic and costume designer) has dressed the cast in contemporary clothing. They could walk down the street outside the theater and not been noticed. Signora Sarti (Myra Lucretia Taylor), Galileo's housekeeper, presses napkins with an electric iron on an ironing board. The set includes three-dimensional pieces and slide projections. Visually, the production is almost as exciting as the heavens that Galileo studies with his perfected telescope.
Galileo battles with the church leaders about whether the earth or the sun was the center of our universe. The telescope brings Mars and other planets into his home. He wants to make the royal family aware of his discoveries, but the royal court is more interested in a dance. The church leaders find his discoveries a threat to the power of the church. These arguments resonate in the present when people say things such as: "I don't believe in global warming." Today, just as in the time of Galileo, some people take pride in their ignorance. They refuse to recognize that new discoveries change our knowledge of the world.
Audience members may freely associate Galileo's problems with the issues facing us today. We have that freedom because we're in the hands of a superior cast and director. The audience may lean back and wrestle with Galileo's problem and associate them with what is happening in this country now.
Paul Whitworth is an excellent Galileo. He ages appropriately as the play progresses. In the last scenes when Galileo is ill, he holds onto the audience and demands we go with him as he declines toward death.
Myra Lucretia Taylor creates a Signora Sarti who is not intimidated by the fame of Galileo. She keeps his house clean and orderly and thinks he shouldn't clutter the house with telescopes and stacks of paper. However, her first priority is her son Andrea Sarti, played by Aric Generette Floyd (in the first act). In the second act, Andrea returns as an adult, played by Sheldon Best. Signora Sarti battles with Galileo that he is not to wake her sleeping son to show him the heavens through the telescope. She thinks he can see those sights tomorrow. Floyd, a local middle-school student, has extensive acting experience and promises to have an excellent career in the theater ahead of him.
The Life of Galileo continues through October 9, 2011, in the Allen Theatre, PlayhouseSquare, Cleveland, Ohio. For ticket information, telephone 216-241-6000 or order online: clevelandplayhouse.com.
The 2011-2012 season offered by the Cleveland Play House will include: Daddy Long Legs (October 21- November 13, 2011), The Games Afoot (November 25 - December 18, 2011), Ten Chimneys (January 13 - February 5, 2012), Radio Golf (February 10 - March 4, 2012), Red (March 16 - April 8, 2012), and In the Next Room (April 13 - May 6, 2012).
The Allen Theatre
- David Ritchey