Shakespeare Theatre revives a visionary ‘Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci’


Mary Zimmerman — a playwright, opera and theater director, and efficiency research educator — is a real authentic in modern theater. Her best-known work is Metamorphoses, which gained her a Tony Award for Greatest Path; and allow us to not neglect she is a bloody “Genius,” awarded by the MacArthur Basis.

So when she involves city to current any of her work, there’s something to be taught right here. That is the third time she has teamed with Shakespeare Theatre Firm (STC). In 2003, she directed Pericles (reprised in the summertime of 2006 and introduced in STC’s Free for All), and in 2008 she introduced her touring manufacturing of Argonautika, about Jason and his Argonauts.

Adeoye, Anthony Irons, Wai Yim, Andrea San Miguel, and Christopher Donahue in ‘The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci.’ Picture by Scott Suchman.

This month, Zimmerman shares a revival of her 2003 work the place she had turned to the nice Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci, particularly to his Notebooks — made up of sketches, notes, concepts, and theories on issues starting from portray to science — to plumb the very workings of the thoughts of the person.

Zimmerman is meticulous and exacting in her creative excavations of classical works. She can also be a visionary artist. She clearly has pored over da Vinci’s pages, steeped within the swirl of his prodigious wonderings — a genius in dialog with a genius.

The set within the newly named Klein Theatre ingeniously pronounces the bold measurement of what Zimmerman has tackled. Scenic Designer Scott Bradley has created a superb stage world. The perimeters of the stage from flooring to proscenium-top are lined with wood laboratory cupboards. The scenography of an enormous workshop alerts the proceedings: a sequence of “drawers” from the thoughts of a genius to be opened, their contents to be examined one after the other. In the midst of the upstage space, a canvas painted in distant perspective depicts an Italian panorama and reminds us of da Vinci because the consummate Renaissance painter. The entire is lit superbly by Designer T.J. Gerckens.

What occurs to the sequencing, nevertheless, turns into a wierd cerebral train, and perhaps that’s the level. Like da Vinci’s notebooks, as he himself wrote, the scenes are “a group with out order.”

Kasey Foster, Andrea San Miguel, John Gregorio, Adeoye, and Wai Yim in ‘The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci.’ Picture by Scott Suchman.

A gaggle of performers, like staff in a grasp artist’s workshop, collect and show-and-tell one-after-another theories or musings from the Notebooks.  The skimpy printed program inform us merely that the eight performers all are referred to as Leonardo.  As da Vinci beheld in marvel the vastness of the universe, so could we, Zimmerman insists, all be beholders; we’re all da Vinci.

Adeoye, Christopher Donahue, Kasey Foster, John Gregorio, Anthony Irons, Louise Lamson, Andrea San Miguel, and Wai Yim are pretty performers. They converse the musings of Leonardo, sometimes sing, dance, transfer and carry one another across the stage. On the finish of many scenes, there’s a tableau bringing a full cease to an concept, then they begin constructing a brand new one.

There is no such thing as a showboating; there are not any star turns. The fashion of efficiency is workmanlike. The closest factor to a stand-out second is when seven start to physicalize a sort of cat’s cradle along with string to display the principles of perspective whereas Adeoye stands downstage and sings in a candy countertenor voice. As a fantastic voice can do, his singing broke open my coronary heart. The ultimate tableau of this scene was affecting due to the method and got here the closest to a transformational second in theater.

Wai Yim, Adeoye, Louise Lamson, and Andrea San Miguel in ‘The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci.’ Picture by Scott Suchman.

Zimmerman has at all times been on the vanguard of an anti-actor fashion of efficiency, and her Notebooks aligns neatly with a sort of intentional workshop really feel and focus. To this viewers member, the awe and marvel the director wished to attain remained a press release somewhat than conveyed as feeling, and the entire added as much as be lower than the sum of its elements.

I need to finish with an acknowledgment of STC’s comparatively newly minted mission: “Shakespeare Theatre Firm creates, preserves and promotes traditional theatre — bold and enduring performs with common themes — for all audiences.” The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci was bold, definitely. Enduring? In all probability that is one to be put again in one of many drawers.

Operating Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.

The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci performs via October 23, 2022, introduced by Shakespeare Theatre Firm on the Klein Theatre, 450 seventh Road NW, Washington, DC. Tickets ($35–$120) could also be bought on-line or by calling the Field Workplace at 202-547-1122. Particular reductions can be found for members of the army, college students, seniors, and patrons age 35 and underneath. Contact the Field Workplace or go to for extra info.

The STC Asides+ program for The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci is on-line right here.

Open-captioned performances can be on Thursday, October 13 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, October 15 at 2 p.m.

An audio-described efficiency can be on Saturday, October 22 at 2:00 p.m. Seating within the audio description part can also be reserved by calling the Field Workplace.

A Put up-Present Dialogue is scheduled for Wednesday, October 12 at 7:30 p.m.

COVID Security: All patrons should put on masks always throughout the theater.

The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci
The Goodman Theatre manufacturing. Written and Directed by Mary Zimmerman.
Scenic Design by Scott Bradley. Lighting Design by T.J. Gerckens. Costume Design by Mara Blumenfeld. Sound Design and Unique Music by Miriam Sturm. Motion Advisor Tracy Walsh. With Adeoye, Christopher Donahue, Kasey Foster, John Gregorio, Anthony Irons, Louise Lamson, Andrea San Miguel, and Wai Yim.


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