Remy Bumppo is one of our finest theatrical companies and what they bring to the stage, and have been doing so for many years, is art that makes one think. Their current production, “The Life of Galileo” is a work by Bertolt Brecht with translation by David Hare. In this finely directed production ( Nick Sandys truly understands what it is Brecht is attempting to say) we learn about the great debate that took place in Galileo’s life between science and the church. It is the fight for proving fact over political “rights” during a time when the world was far different from ours. The original work was written during a period of 15 years (1938-1953). Brecht uses a new fictional Galileo to parallel that actual one back in 17th Century Italy. The Brecht Galileo, however is in Washington, DC and New Mexico and during this 2 hours and 30 minutes, we are made aware of many topical items.
This is a very historical play filled with many facts that have had a strong effect on our world today: The rise of Hitler! The invention of the nuclear bomb! Brecht’s fight with the politicals of his day! The layering of time periods can be somewhat confusing, so it truly pays to keep your focus on what the actors are saying and as each scene begins to note the dates and locations that appear on the projections. I promise that if you follow this, you will not find yourself getting lost in the history that we are viewing.
Galileo Galilei, is known for his scientific mind and his love of astronomy. Brecht, also an outspoken thinker, chose this man to write about as his outreach to the world in order to set himself free of mind and soul. He himself, felt trapped during his departure from Germany in the early 1930’s ( as the Nazi regime began). Many versions were started and done, but Brecht never was witness to the final version of which this production is based. He would have smiled!
While I would love to be able to give this production a higher rating, as the acting I superb. The nature of the story and the length of the play will not appeal to the large number of readers that prefer musicals or comedies or plays that make one laugh. This is a deep story and has many dark moments, but thanks to the clever direction of Sandys and the talented cast assembled, one can say that this was an experience worth having. Shawn Douglas in a powerful Galileo. He is almost onstage the entire time and has a great deal of dialogue. He is an amazing actor who truly gives us a real man instead of just a name we know from history. He is a teacher and has two main pupils, a young lad (played by a female, Kelsey Brennan who is very boyish in the early scenes) of commoners and Ludovico (deftly handled by Caleb Probst, who also plays a guard later) a nobleman, During the 15 years, we watch each student grow up and face the real world that their teacher must also face. I do not want to give away anything, but there is a major scene where Galileo must admit that what he has been teaching and what he believes in is all untrue. Can he renounce what he has taught?
Most readers know how important an ensemble is to a production being “total”, and in this production, it is certainly true. Henry Bolzon, Stephanie Diaz, Todd Michael Kiech, Susasn Jamshidi, Stephen Spencer, Kevin Matthew Reyes and the incredible Blake Montgomery all bring a myriad of characters to the tale being told and I for one was never confused as to who they were at any time. That is quality theater, to be sure!
The technical aspects of this production are flawless. The Greenhouse Theater 3 (that is the larger one upstairs) at 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue, is a three -sided stage area, The set designed by Joe Klug allows us to see every square inch of the stage area as well as the amazing projections (John Boesche). The furniture pieces are moved by the actors as they change from scene to scene and the costume changes (costumer Rachel Lambert is a genius) are amazingly quick. Mike Durst’s lighting, Christopher Kriz’ original music and sound and Christopher Neville’s props all work to make this a story -telling experience worth viewing, even if you are not into math and science, or even politics. In your program you will see a book mark. Take a look at this as it is not a throw-away. There are some interesting questions about the show and education that will make for great conversation on the way home or as you have a late night snack.
“The Life of Galileo” will continue at The Greenhouse Theater through May 1st with performances as follows:
Thursday 7:30 p.m.
Friday 7:30 p.m.
Saturday 7:30 p.m.
Sunday 2:30 p.m.
Tickets range from $42.50- and are available by calling 773-404-7336 or online at www.RemyBumppo.org where you can also see some of the special events that go with this production. There is street parking in the area, but you can use the former Children’s Hospital 1/2 block north of the theater free ( there are 100 spaces). Student tickets are $15, subject to availability.
There is parking (meter only at $4 or $6) at Mrs. Green’s Natural Market at 555 West Webster (just 1/2 block south of the theater)
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com. Go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Life of Galileo”