Brecht's 'Galileo' at Trinity Rep; also Munch, Minelli, Missa Gaia
Perhaps, Bertolt Brecht is to theater as Herman Hesse is to literature. If you don't buy this proposition completely, you should see the current production of Brecht's ''Galileo'' at the Trinity Square Repertory Theater (through Nov. 14). Heavily philosophical, transparently political, it uses theater as a platform for the writer's private diatribe. You can almost hear the German philosopher-novelist's voice in the storyteller character portrayed as Brecht himself in this production.Skip to next paragraph
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All of this, stretched out across an evening of theater, may sound pretty dreary; but it isn't - for three reasons.
The first reason is Richard Kneeland, who plays Galileo with a self-possessed humanity that grows more affectingly warm as the evening proceeds. The second is Richard Kavanaugh's ornately medieval portrayal of Cardinal Barberini (later Pope Urban VII). And the third is this production, which begins dismally enough but eventually discovers its own heart and soul.
The discovery can't come until after we abandon classroom lectures about the solar system. ''Get excited! We are seeing something nobody has ever seen before ,'' Galileo says. Only it's pretty tough to get excited today about astronomy lessons so elementary that even Dr. Carl Sagan and all the technicians at PBS wouldn't be able to turn them into entertainment.
What is exciting, downright riveting, however, is the political-ecclesiastical net that gradually tightens about Galileo, eventually forcing him to recant his discoveries. And the first glimmer of this dramatic confrontation comes well into the first act.
It comes in the considerable person of Richard Kavanaugh, who turns Cardinal Barberini into a more sensate being than Brecht ever dreamed of. From then on, Richard Kneeland catches fire and the whole production starts to burn with him.
Kept waiting outside a prelate's office, wearing an Ezra Pound-ish hat, or discussing the theories of Aristotle with his pupils, or hungrily consuming a plate of spaghetti, Kneeland touches the heart of this giant-sized man, bringing him into humanly appreciable proportions. Kneeland is such an intuitively real actor that he will hit pay dirt if he's given half a chance.
And that's just what he's given in Brecht's play: half a chance.
Brecht the communist-historian only allows Brecht the playwright-poet half the room he needs to breathe and create; and the very real theater smoldering under this work gets frequently smothered. Brecht's big mistake is in trying to springboard from the religious persecution of the 1600s into a more timeless reason vs. religion argument. In fact, the fight was not between religion and reason at all; it was a war between reason and institutionalized superstition.
Which means that you'll need some patience to get through the polemic into the people.
From Boston Arts contributors:
At first perusal the Edvard Munch print exhibition at the Fogg Museum in Harvard Square comes off as a tribute to his reputed fascination with psychological and morbid themes. But the viewer is asked (by the exhibition guidebook) not to think that morbidity is all there is to this German Expressionist, and instead to take note of his very innovative printing techniques.