The Life of Galileo in Epic Style


If one were to stage a Brechtian version of Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks would look directly into the camera and relinquish any evidence of his character to deliver the line, "Life is like a box of chocolates ...." There would be montages, live versions of the movie's soundtrack and images of Trump with audio overlay of Hitler speeches sprinkled in the mix. Elements of Bertolt Brecht's "epic theater" style are brilliantly incorporated by co-directors Craig and Julie Benson to bring Brecht's The Life of Galileo to Cal Poly Humboldt's production in Gist Hall Theatre. The result is a beautiful piece of theater that is both educational and meaningful. Brecht and Shakespeare believed theater should not be reserved for the elite. Ironically, both have become like fashionable superfoods, originally meant for everyone but later reserved exclusively for Whole Food shoppers. Still, the works are saturated with meaning and a poetry in language that keep them as timeless as kombucha or coconut water. This production brings Brecht back to its origins. Quite simply, it is about Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei, brilliantly (and controversially, as students protested the loss of a role for student players) played by CPH associate professor Troy Lesher. The father of modern astronomy and his battle with a church that was afraid of the implications of his scientific discoveries drive the action. While at times this conflict doesn't feel like enough to raise the stakes to life or death (which it was) Lesher's drive and passion as Galilei is compelling enough to keep interest. Willow Aguilar's ominous presence as the Cardinal Inquisitor, whose merciless silence and Dolores Umbridge sweetness are gorgeous. This production has 17 actors portraying 47 roles. That alone is a triumph. Flip Amborski plays an abundance of characters, each just as realized as the next and expertly acted. Likewise, Penny Dellapelle's perfect delivery in every character added necessary comedy to the total work. The entire cast is lovely to witness and small bobbles in swallowed or underarticulated words (classics are all about the words), and reservations in taking characterizations to an absurd level, will undoubtedly be resolved as the run progresses. Still, this production was fully realized and remarkable, even on opening night — rare for Humboldt post-COVID theater. Scenic designer Robert Pickering strayed away from Brecht's typical aesthetic of simplicity, opting instead for realism in rolling multi-functional boxes with scrolls, instruments and columns,…


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