Thursday, November 01, 2007

'Life of Galileo'

Lee Center for the Arts, Seattle University
October 25 - November 18
Thurs - Fri - Sat @ 7:30pm / Sun @ 2:00pm
Mondays: Oct. 29 & Nov 5 @ 7:30pm
Tickets Information

(In advance, I apologize for any rushed and/or incomplete parts to this review)

Life of Galileo is fairly straight forward. It tells the story of Galileo Galilei (performed by Timothy Hyland) and his efforts to both push forward the boundaries of science to help explain the universe and to keep people's minds open beyond the confines of the Catholic Church. His endeavors are continuously supported by his friends and fellow physicists and opposed by members of the Church who feel that he will undermine the authority of the Church and thus bring anarchy upon a world already fighting for salvation. The play focuses not only on these conflicts but the internal ones Galileo faces as he struggles to be an ideal and to also keep the things he appreciates most in life: his creature comforts such as fine food, wine, and living on to continue to question everything.

While walking away from Life of Galileo, written by Bertolt Brecht, as performed by both the Strawberry Theatre Workshop and the students of Seattle University's Fine Arts departments, I heard many people who analyzed it from one standpoint or another. One friend of mine did not appreciate the execution of a Brecht play with Stanislavsky acting elements. Another felt that Brecht is a poor writer and that the play was doomed in this respect from the start. It is somewhat shameful that I, as a reviewer, can say that I have no background in Brecht and thus cannot make and/or understand these assertions. It is very possible that they are true, and I have no authority to try and refute them at all.


From a purely entertainment-seeking point of view (as many of you may know, I tend to possess), I found this play to be quite enjoyable.

The mixture of the Strawberry Theatre Workshop and Seattle University's students not only seemed to work; it was very natural. All of the actors were very comfortable with each other and played off of each other's talents very well, which is exactly what all actors should do. Some of the scenes felt a bit awkward; for example, when Hyland is washing himself on stage at the beginning of the show, his movements seemed too fast for Galileo, who otherwise would only move that quickly when he was on the verge of discovery or explanation. Also, the actors sometimes stumble over their lines, thus breaking the fluidity of the scene they are in. These small mistakes, however, can be forgiven for other scenes where the pacing and general stage use were spot-on.

To segue into the stage as a part of the production, I was not only impressed by the use of the minimalist set; I was awed by it. The stage seemed to reflect upon the state of Galileo himself; as he discovered more of the universe or set others on a path to do the same, the area in which the actors were allowed to walk was greatly increased, representing the same expansion of the view of the world and its place in the grand scheme as a smaller part in the infinite universe. The same universe shrank back down when Galileo and his ideas were also reduced to a tiny cell where he could only do work approved by the Church. In a different vein, the wide variety of uses of particular stage pieces also impressed me.

Perhaps if you are invested greatly in the study of theatrical aspects of a play, you will not enjoy Life of Galileo. However, as Galileo tried to bring his work to everyone to understand by writing it in Italian rather than Latin, I feel that anyone looking for a good time can enjoy this show.

Jack Jarden

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