Theater Review: Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei by Bertolt Brecht, translated and directed by Ido Ricklin at Beersheva Theater.

Galileo 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Galileo 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Playwright/director Ido Ricklin goes for the gut, but subtly, so that you only realize what has hit you when the air whooshes out – “Oof!” So it is with his production of Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo Galilei in which Amir Kriaf in the title role literally illuminates truth, ignorance and stupidity, the quest for knowledge, the price that is paid by those who openly challenge received wisdom and the always-renewed necessity for that challenge.
Against the warm pastel backdrop of Talia Ottolenghi’s spacious minimalist set – just the way Ricklin likes it – and wearing Neta Haker’s often sumptuous period clothing, the characters/actors manipulate contemporary stage-lighting instruments from the great lamp that signifies the sun to the three small muted lights on poles by which his monks intensify the pope’s smooth twaddle.
The play deals with Galileo (1564-1642) versus the Church. The Church taught that the Earth is the center of the universe and that the sun and all other celestial objects move around it. Galileo, already in his own day a scientist, astronomer and philosopher of great renown, said that Earth and the planets revolved around the sun, a theory first advanced by Copernicus in 1542, upon which Galileo improved.
Called before the Roman Inquisition, Galileo recanted and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.
“How can I tell my peasant parents…that we’re just a speck in the universe?” a young monk in the play passionately asks Galileo because his theories upset people’s (read the powers that be) sense of order and security.
Ricklin gives us a man who loves life and its goodies in equal measure with the life of the mind, a man who prefers to be a productive coward rather than a dead hero, and Kriaf lets us see an all-stops-pulled-out Galileo that is an utter joy to watch.
The rest of the cast, all of whom play more than one character, more than keep up. Yonit Tubi, especially as Galileo’s daughter Virginia; Adva Edni as Galileo’s housekeeper; Rodie Koslovsky, especially as the Cardinal Inquisitor; Tom Hagi as Andrea Sarti, Galileo’s pupil; Guy Alon, Oren Cohen, Yirmi Reich and Yossi Zabari all infuse the action with energy, passion, wit and magic.