January 27, 2023
by Kristen Schweizer
Leonardo Da Vinci is the definition of a “Renaissance man.” A multipotential genius limited only by the length of his life. His famous work spanned the fields of art, science, music, and invention. The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, currently running at The Old Globe Theatre, showcases the polymath’s curiosity and process through the writings, research, and musings found within some 5,000 pages of his surviving journals.
Theatre is a fitting medium to relay the thoughts of Da Vinci, as the collaborative art form brings together experts in light, sound, art, construction, design, and human movement. Writer and director Mary Zimmerman originally produced this work in 1993 to rave reviews. Nearly three decades later, she amplifies it with the power of modern technology. The 90-minute run abounds in gorgeous tableaus and scenic wonder, supported exquisitely by lighting designer T.J. Gerckens.
The words – as all the plays’ lines are direct quotes delivered by eight different ‘Leonardos’ – were never meant for the general public. From notations on the harmony of human proportions to personal reflections on his troublesome pupil, there is a lack of cohesiveness which lends itself to a lack of catharsis. While Da Vinci’s theories are demonstrated well, particularly by standout players Wai Yim and Andrea San Miguel, the performance is impressive rather than compelling and intellectual rather than satisfying. Its acclaim must be because the experience is inspiring. Zimmerman’s show is proof of infinite possibilities – within a single mind and the art form itself.