The 2002 Tony Award Winner Director Mary Zimmerman brings back the Revival of the original Renaissance Man, Leonardo da Vinci. She adapted his notebooks directed and produced this experience thirty years ago for the Goodman Theatre at the Art Institute of Chicago. How creative, brilliant, and imaginative is Zimmerman to produce this artistic gem from da Vinci’s own 5,000 words in his notebooks and treatises. Leonardo is known as an artist, architect, engineer, inventor, scientist, and futuristic visionary, but not generally as an author. He wrote his notes left-handed and backward, known as mirror writing; it may have been to protect himself from anyone else reading them and perhaps charge him with heresy as Galileo was.
“Staying true to its roots, Goodman Theatre continues its mission to enrich the American theater by producing bold and varied seasons and providing an essential cultural contribution to a diverse and vibrant city.” So of course, I expected a cultural contribution, diversity, drama, information, education, and splendid rich acting. What I did not expect was funny satirical wit in the Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. We especially found amusing the snide jibes Leonardo makes at his fellow artists Michelangelo and Botticelli.
The staging is magnificent with avant-garde props like filing cabinets to the roof, that pull out to reveal inventions, a restaurant, and nature scenes. There are birdcages made of golden ribbons, arches reminiscent of renaissance architecture, bars to hang from, to climb on, and a swing to demonstrate physic principles. Assistant Lighting Designer, Madeline Reid, creates visuals critical to our understanding of shadows and perspectives in art.
The actors display extraordinary talents. They are accomplished dancers, singers, and amazing athletes. I was enthralled by their agility and strength. The outstanding, diverse cast of eight all play the complexities of Leonardo da Vinci’s genius at different moments in life. Actors include Christopher Donahue an Obie Award winner and a veteran from the original performance. Adeoye another cast member is a teaching artist at Lookingglass Theatre. He holds a Master of Fine Arts from The Academy for Classical Acting at George Washington University. He also serves as the Movement Captain. The choreographed moves are exquisite, fluid, and mesmerizing. Kasey Foster is a multi-talented performer, singer, choreographer, director in theater, television, and film. Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel received a Jeff Award for Performance in a Principal Role. She was born, raised in Argentina. Her degree in acting is from the Universidad del Salvador. She is a theater, television, and film actor, vocalist, and dancer. John Gregorio is an actor, writer, and co-founder of Dad’s Garage Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, and The Nuclear Family Improv Troupe in New York City. Anthony Irons is a 2014 nominee for a Joseph Jefferson Equity Award for Supporting Actor in King Hedley II. Wai Yim originally from Hong Kong, is an actor, director, choreographer, with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. This ensemble brings Leonardo to life by vividly illuminating the mind of a man obsessed with curiosity, awareness, details, and the profound genius to combine science with art in modern inventions and artistic creations.
This show is a little bit educational, comedic, operatic, with a measure of a Cirque du Soleil type of performance. I found it thoroughly enthralling. For further information on showtimes and subscriptions please contact the Goodman Theatre. Get your tickets fast as Opening Night was sold out. Calendar times vary from 2:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Tickets range in price from $15.00-$45.00. This is quite the bargain since Armand Hammer originally paid over $5 million for the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci and Bill Gates bought them for a reported $30.8 million from Hammer’s Estate in 1994.
The Goodman Theatre is thrilled to welcome all guests who are in compliance with the City of Chicago Protocols for Covid Safety. You must show proof of an FDA or WHO authorized full vaccination. You must mask -up for entry and wear your mask all through the show and in all areas of Goodman Theatre. The show runs 85 minutes without an intermission. The Goodman Theatre also provides a number of dates that aid in making performances more accessible to all.
Photos: Courtesy of Goodman Theatre Press