March 10, 2009

Two Men of Florence - Audience Comments

Here are some beautiful photos from Two Men of Florence. Have you seen it yet? What did you think? Click here to comment.

Edward Herrmann (Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, before he becomes Pope Urban VIII) in Barberini’s study. Pride and ambition seem to play a large role in the stories of our "Two Men". They both seem to desire a place in history as well as a need to be right. Does their ambition serve them, or us, in the end? Click here to comment.

Peter Van Wagner, Joe Curnutte, and Diego Arciniegas as Venetian Senators spy through a far-off building’s window as they experience the power of Galileo’s telescope for the first-time. The ruling class are somewhat mocked in this play - with merchants and their negotiations holding little merit in the eyes of Galileo and Pope Urban. Yet they have their influences in the politics of church and science. Do you see parallels in today's society? Click here to comment.

Jay O. Sanders as Galileo turns his newly-built telescope to the sky for the first time and catches a glimpse of the cratered moon, stars, and the Milky Way. How did this moment strike you? We grew up with lunar landings, space walks, Mars missions, science stations orbiting the earth, and fantastic images from the Hubble telescope. How do you think it would feel to know that you were the first person ever to see the heavens with the detail that Galileo and his telescope did? Click here to comment.

Edward Herrmann as Pope Urban VIII considers Galileo’s fate. The Pope, while intrigued by the science and the benefits it might serve his armies, is fiercely protective of the idea of faith and belief. Galileo enjoyed challenging old assumptions and relished proving them wrong. What are the dangers in each approach? Click here to comment.

Edward Herrmann as Pope Urban VIII explains the betrayal of the Church he perceives in Galileo’s book (played by Jay O. Sanders). Again - these two men saw things very differently. Was Galileo wrong not to see how his science would challenge his faith? Click here to comment.

Jay O. Sanders as Galileo realizes his fate at the hands of his Church. Both men in this play suffer loss. Which character did you most empathize with? How did you feel about their interactions? How does the play's debate about faith and science resonate with issues we are facing in today's world?
What do you have to say? Click here to comment and share your experience with Two Men of Florence.

The Huntington Theatre Company's production of Two Men of Florence, by Richard Goodwin, playing March 6 through April 5, 2009 at the Huntington's mainstage, the B.U. Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA. Buy tickets online or call our Box Office at 617 266-0800. Photos by T. Charles Erickson


Anonymous said...

I liked this play. Having read Galileo's Daughter, the play provided no new information about the people and events. It did give me more insight into, and even a little sympathy for, Pope Urban's actions. The actors are very good. A little long, but still very enjoyable.

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent production - the set is breathtaking, the script is brilliant, and the acting is inspiring. Everyone should make a point of going to see this show. I cannot say enough good things about it.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic production. The set was amazing. I went feeling grumpy and within 5 minutes was totally transported and fascinated.

Anonymous said...

A thought provoking, entertaining evening for sure. After reading a few mixed press reviews, I was a afriad Two Men of Florence might not be worth the time and money, but rest assured it has a lot to offer artistically and intellectually.

Anon from Goldstar said...

A true feast of smart theater! Up there with other contemporary historical plays like Copenhagen. It all worked perfectly: the writing, the drama buildup, the acting, the set design, the lighting, and the sound. Not to be missed.

lmc9 said...

After reading Ms. Kennedy's review of "Two Men of Florence" at The Huntington Theatre, it is hard to believe that she was actually at the theatre watching the same play that I was watching. The play absolutely brought down the house. And for good reason. It was one of the best productions I have seen with some of the best acting I have seen, To say that the play would have been better if "only the play were simply (about) these two men" is an absurd suggestion at best. So she didn't like the play because of the other characters? Ms. Kennedy also takes issue with the "argument, exposition and flowery descriptions" of the play which I find remarkable. This is a play of complex ideas articulated beautifully in the hands of the playwright who gives us characters with enormous intellect, passion and dimension. It is a wonderfully insightful play about ideas that are as relevant today as they were hundreds of years ago. Don't let this review keep you from seeing this really terrific play!
by lmc9 March 12, 7:57 PM

BC70-1 said...

It never fails that if I go to the plays the critics dislike, it is one of my best evenings ! Will politics never cease. It was magical, inspirational and the acting sensational. I would go again in a heartbeat !!

numitta said...

Two Men Of Florence is most definitely worth seeing - in fact, I would say that it and ART's Endgame are the two must-see Boston shows this year - but Louise Kennedy's principle areas of complaint were all as plain as the stars during last night's performance. The play has some of the most brilliant, poetic writing you will ever hear, and the worldly and religious obstructions in Galileo's path are all splendidly realized, but dramatically the play is episodic and careens out of balance at times. Enormous, overwritten speeches abound, swamping a good deal of Act II, while one of the most important events - an unexpected death - is given short shrift and fails to make the impact it was clearly meant to. The set is absolutely astounding - so often the case with HTC productions, isn't it? - and almost worth a ticket by itself. The music is occasionally effective, but mostly cinematic and a distraction (as a musician, it occurred to me that an approach more suggestively contemporary to the subject might have been better). As for the acting, Kennedy is right about Jay Sanders - he's big, energetic, charming, sweaty, and funny in Act I - but his transformation throughout the vicissitudes of Act II is not entirely convincing. As for the wonderful Edward Herrmann, I don't think he has a handle on the part yet - from his opening scenes it was clear that he was less than 100% secure in his lines, and the occasional phrase leaned the wrong way. His part is also weakened by a severe dramatic shortcoming - like the death mentioned above, a key transformation that the Pope undergoes is simply not written or directed in a comprehensible or emotionally plausible manner. If the encounter between Galileo and Urban was 'the hinge of the world', this sea change of the Pope's is the hinge of the play, and it squeaks from faulty stagecraft. All the actors are terrific, though, and I think that our highly appreciative audience would have welcomed a closing bow by pairs of supporting players in order to voice more specific praise. In all, TMOF is theater of a high order, a clash of ideas more complex and subtle than may at first be apparent, and my children and I found it compelling and entirely worthwhile. If it doesn't tilt the meter of the heart as far as it might, it nevertheless moves the mind.
by nimitta March 14, 8:20 AM
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Anonymous said...

I thought the set, lights and sound were outstanding -- they really made the play.

Anonymous said...

Having read the manuscript this summer I eagerly awaited its Boston debut and I was not disappointed. In the context of a play the subject is difficult at best, but I thought everyone, playwright, director and cast, presented an admirable production of a complex historical subject. The spectacular sets were a real treat, beyond what I would have imagined during the reading. I, too, echo the comments regarding Ms. Kennedy's review, but to be fair she is not in the business of reviewing plays; rather she is in the business of selling newspapers. I would not let her commentary detract from a fine evening at the Huntington.

Anonymous said...

I very seldom agree with Louise Kennedy, but do on this production. Very shortly into it, you wonder why it is a play since it is not structured dramatically. It is full of "speeches" but there is no excitement and absolutely no emotional connection. Two days after I saw it, I read a single paragraph in the Globe's "Observatory" colunm about star gazing; it marked the 400th anniversary of Galileo's invention of the telescope optics and captured the excitement of a time when the church's power was permanently undermined and our understanding of the universe changed forever. This one small paragraph was far more exciting and enlightening than the entire production of "Two Men."

Anonymous said...

Although the play had some visual appeal, it was leaden. The acting was mostly declamatory. The play never achieved lift-off and failed to transend the didactic nature of the script. I think the failure was partly the director's and partly the author's.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I thought this was the best play we've seen at the Huntington. The acting and set were really impressive, and we felt inspired and energized by the play. I was shocked to read the poor review in the Globe a couple of days later. I think she really missed the boat on this one.

Anonymous said...

We were surprised by the lively sets and colorful characters in this engrossing and historically accurate play. It was long, but didn't seem so. Brilliant!

Seth said...

Strained acting, dull script, but almost bearable until the play stoops to using overtly homosexual "humor" done poorly (not offensive - just silly). So I left after an hour - it was too nice a day outside to waste. Read the chapter "And yet it moves" in "Einstein's Mistakes" if you are really interested in the subject.

Nina J Berger said...

Amazing set and costumes. But weak exposition of the critical conflict. Wish Goodwin had explored the political and personal complexities of the Pope & Galileo's relationship more thoroughly.

In his Dialogue's witty conversation between Salviati (representing Galileo), Sagredo (the intelligent layman), and Simplicio (the dyed-in-the-wool Aristotelian), Galileo gathered together all the arguments (mostly based on his own telescopic discoveries) for the Copernican theory and against the traditional geocentric cosmology.

But in giving Simplicio (the Church's view) the final word, that God could have made the universe any way he wanted to and still made it appear to us the way it does, he put Pope Urban VIII's favorite argument (and some of his actual words) in the mouth of the person who had been ridiculed throughout the dialogue. And, the reaction against the book was swift.

No wonder the Pope was outraged against someone (a friend he'd supported and helped) who called him Simplicio. It was a personal affront to his intellectual, religious, and political power.

Now that would have made for a more compelling story. Well at least for me.

Anonymous said...

Very entertaining and educational. Nice mix of drama and comedy, A beautiful set. The timeless issue of science and religion continues today.

Anonymous said...

This was a boring play, alternating between simplistically didactic monologue and trumped up theatrics and cliched stagecraft. The director and actors must have had a high school Shakespeare production in mind. I kept thinking: What would Tom Stoppard have done with this material?

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the play. Beautiful set. Religion, science, politics, power and ego, then as now.

Anonymous said...

A most spectacular play...performances (Jay O. Sanders in particular) were outstanding. I also had the good fortune to attend an evening with the Goodwins at WGBH a few nights before attending the play. What a delight! I would recommend this production to everyone...not to be missed!

curiousdwk said...

I feel that theater is a great medium for learning empathy - understanding what and why a person thinks and feels the way(s) that they do. This was a great example.

I really appreciated the balance the playwright introduced as he showed the Pope as a man of Faith and also of Intellect, and Galileo as a man of Intellect (a philosopher with hands) and also a man of Faith. The played showed not only the conflicts between these two individuals but also the conflicts within each of them.

I like it well enough to come back and bring a second person to view it.

Anonymous said...

We enjoyed it.


Excellent staging.
Stars, candles and turntable worked for us.

There was a standing ovation...that audience thought it was a worthy production.

Anonymous said...

We found the play flat. If you know the history already no new insights were brought forward. i understand they have no responsibility to be historically correct (Kepler was a German who went to Prague as well as spending a huge portion of his life in Austria)...its art. However after hundreds of years perhaps a writing to which a contemporary discourse is better initiated would have been welcomed.

Todd Williams said...

This one arrived via email. Eric - Thank you for subscribing!

Hi --

As a subscriber I got an email soliciting feedback on "Two Men..."

You asked, so here are our thoughts.

Thank you for your work with the Huntington Theater.

-- Eric

We give it a "B" overall. We were very happy to see the play, and
definitely entertained and engaged for the evening. But we felt the
script feel short of its potential.

The set was super: A+ and visually compelling. Turntable usage was
fun. The symbolism of the metal structure in its different roles (open,
closed, crucifix symbols apparent or absent, etc) through the
performance was a wonderful touch. Moon and stars and lighting all were
highlights of the performance as well.

Among the performers, we particularly enjoyed the Pope, the duke of
Florence, and the king of France (the later two providing a nice comic

The script was more difficult:
-- My date pointed out that it's often a challenge to present a play
about ideas. We both felt that the protagonists spoke too often in
-- The daughter's remarks to her father often came across as a bit
bizarrely infatuated/insipid. We were puzzled why she burned papers in
the second act, when her father had only requested that papers be burned
upon his death. The circumstances of her death were unclear: did she
commit suicide because she couldn't reconcile her faith and her
science/her vows to Rome and her allegiance to her father? Or did she
die in some other fashion for other reasons.
-- Second act was better: more action, less talk about action.

We saw potential to bring out more general issues about human nature,
the use of political power, and the conflicts between blind allegiance
and faith/ideology vs science. The Bush administration can be seen as
another echo of the points raised in the play: manipulation/suppression
of scientific data in order to advance a political or ideological
agenda; loyalty tests; the role of Cheney as eminence gris may have some
parallel to the interaction of the Pope and the Vatican inquisition

While some of these concepts were talked about, we wondered whether
the script could use action rather than conversation to bring these out
more clearly, and perhaps show more clearly the echos between this past
time in Italy and modern 20th and 21st century history to illuminate the
nature of human and institutional behaviors.


Anonymous said...

A great production -- The actor playing Galileo was fantastic and certainly carried the show. Echoes of King Lear.

I did wish the script and production had taken more time to help us along on Pope Urban's change of heart. Obviously in 2009, steeped in scientific inquiry, we're all going to have an easier time understanding Galileo's perspective ... while Galileo's breakdown was breathtaking, Urban's felt a little forced...

I loved how Galileo was introduced as a man of great faith. I wish the daughter character was developed more -- seemed a gesture towards a Cordelia/Ophelia character, but never quite got there (not to mention the actress was bland and stilted but what a lovely singing voice)

The set was stunning and inspired.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful staging, brilliant and powerful acting. Two Men of Florence is food for the intellect.

MARCOS said...

wonderful play. The script and acting gave a new perspective to those events, so much different from Brecht's Galileo. A more human Galileo, and a more human catholic church.

Anonymous said...

Richard Goodwin does not know how to write a play to dramatize a conflict of ideas with two strong personalities. An unusual and sad fact is that the very creative set design and staging actually detracted from the drama. Also there were too many characters and too many distracting themes to make the main drama effective. The costumes were great but not worth the $120 I spent to see the play.

Anonymous said...

I purchased the tickets to "Two men.." last October as a Christmas gift to my wife. We had been in high anticipation of its opening in March. Then, the early critics seemed to be less enthusiastic than we anticipated they wouyld be. Well, we attended last friday night and were overwhelmed by the play in total; the actors; the staging; the lighting; the total effect it had on us. THEN , we were treated to an on-stage conversation with Richard Goodwin, the author and Doris Kearns Goodwin. What more could we possibly ask for..It was the highlight of our years attending the theatre...Great, great work by everyone..Ken and Terry Cahill

Jane said...

The production was the most elegant I have ever seen. Bravo to the set designers.
Unfortunately, I was not feeling well (imbibed too much on Fri) so I cannot give a fair review of the words and acting. Visually it was a smash!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Three of us went to this production last Wednesday. We all thought that the set was very effective. However, the play itself just missed for all of us. The 1st act was dull and overly long. Several people near us left before act 2 when things picked up but our over all sense was that such fascinating history could have been made into a better play.

Anonymous said...

I was enthralled with the set. The floor design was exquisite. It's movements, and the motion of the actors on it as it turned expressed the theme of the play so eloquently. The most exciting set I've seen in years. Thanks you for that visual memory!

Anonymous said...

I really liked the whole production. The sets and lighting were amazing. The play itself was a bit wordy but never boring. I learned a lot about the relationship between Pope Urban and Galileo. The actors ,especially the main characters were excellent. All in all a very wonderful theatre experience. I have reccomended it to friends.J.S.

Kirk said...

Galileo & Urban were both really tall. It made me consider the importance of physical dimensions to personality & achievement. I imagine most popes have been extremely intelligent, driven, & aggressive. If you can use physicality to those ends -- more power to you. I have no idea if these people were tall in `real life` - just sayin' that it was on my mind.

by the way-- I think I left my Starbucks hat under the seat (K105? at the Sunday March 29 show). if you find it, please wear it kindly. ok?

Anonymous said...

We liked the play a lot and found the sets and multiple characters a big part of that. I was moved to tears, and I agree with the other comment about it giving me empathy for Pope Urban. I thought a great school exercise would be to scan the play for signs of the inner conflict the Pope experienced....I did feel the play was a little closer to "re-enactment" than full creative theatre. I am more inclined to believe that what I am seeing is known fact than when the story is more fictional seeming. I learned a very lot. The cynical teens with me who had read about this period felt less edified and entertained than I. Amazing hard work on this, we are blessed to be able to enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and thank you so much for letting us eat and drink during theatre. Sipping coffee while watching theatre is a great joy.

Anonymous said...

I loved the dramatic opening, the brilliant acting, the intelligent discourse.

Anonymous said...

We enjoyed this play very much. Along with "The Corn is Green", this is another highlight of the Huntington season. The actors were all excellent and believable and really brought the characters to life. The play was very educational in that it clearly showed the issues and sacrifices both Pope Urban and Galileo were forced to confront and make. The scenery /stage design was extraordinary. Actually, one thing we always note at every play we attend is that no matter who is responsible for the set designs, they are always exceptional. "Wow" is our usual response. Everything just came together beautifully in this production. A must-see.

Anonymous said...

The actors were excellent and the sets were great. That said, I read "Galileo's Daughter", and the one thing I remember is that Maria was shut up in her convent and could NEVER LEAVE. She corresponded with her father by letter. So she didn't help in his workshop, and she certainly didn't meet the Pope! I know nothing about Galileo's relationship with the Pope, but I wonder whether Richard Goodwin does, either, or if the entire play is a complete fabrication!

rick said...

I truly enjoyed Two Men of Florence. This excellent play was one of the best I have seen at the Huntington, or anywhere.

The script was literate and intelligent,the themes challenging and thought-provoking. I thought that the acting was uniformly excellent. Edward Herrmann believably showed the evolution in his character from the very human cardinal to the austere, impassive pope. Jay O. Sanders was a joy -- he conveyed Galileo's sense of wonder with truly religious fervor. Maria, his dutiful daughter, was portrayed with great sincerity and had a beautiful singing voice -- although her death, coincidentally occurring at the time of her father's trial, was handled somewhat perfunctorily.

The set design was brilliant; I thought that the use of innumerable candles that were reflected in the dangling stars was inspired, as was the revolving stage to mimic the movements of the earth. The costumes also were detailed and beautiful.

Most impressive to me was the pervasive sense of wonder conveyed by the play, exemplified by Galileo kneeling at his telescope as he turned it skyward to unveil the machinery and mystery of the heavens. As an amateur astronomer, I can recall the sense of awe I experienced when I first gazed through my telescope at the Galiliean moons of Jupiter. Perhaps the best praise I can bestow upon Richard N. Goodwin and the production is that this play recaptured that feeling of true transcendence for me. Although I think The Hinge of the World was a better title.

andreea said...

I enjoyed the play, although a little long, I didn't feel bored. It was a subject I didn't know much about and it was very informative. The actors were great and I can say it was the best acting I've seen in a while at the theater.

Bhavana Priyadharshini said...

What an outstanding show !!! a perfect authentic blend of intellectual war and wits!!! the play really brought out the depth of the issue facing the day then, with such poise and it was amazing to see how we still face the same battle when it comes to religion and reason. I was really impressed by the elegant way both the sides of the coin were balanced giving the viewer a very unbiased take on the issue.The script was wonderfully written and the actors were simply splendid. An impressive stage and the creative concept of the moving earth in the centre was a perfect icing on the cake. It was an awesome experience indeed.Since,It was the first play for me here in boston, this live show has for sure evoked a deep interest and admiration for the huntington theatre productions.Great work!

Anonymous said...

Set breathtaking
acting inspiring

We got the last 2 tickets on the last day and what a good choice that was!!

Anonymous said...

Great set, poorly realized characterization of Galileo, tedious drama.

Two men pontificating and blustering onstage does not a play make. Galileo was particularly one-dimensional, no matter how energetic his delivery. As a theater-goer I'm only interested in "great ideas" insofar as they're embodied in nuanced characters involved in a dramatic conflict. Galileo was a caricature; Urban was a little better (and Edward Hermann is a better actor), but both were unrealized.

My only regret was that I didn't take my companions' advice and leave during intermission.

Anonymous said...

much better than what i expected from the critic's review in the globe. the staging, the acting. very provocative and timely as we face the ongoing struggle between those adhering to rigid religious belief (in this case based on pagan Greek thinkers!) and those seeking to balance religious belief (or not) while being open to expanding knowledge of the world around us. reminded me of dostoevsky's the grand inquisitor. and good to remind us of the deadly repression of the inquisition for those who tout the superiority of european civilization.

Ja said...

It was a great play and, as a man of science, it is close to my heart and is being played out even to this day in the debate between creationism and evolutionary biology. It is strange that Urban did not harken to St Augustene of Hippo in the 4th Century who admonished theologians to avoid conflicts between doctrine and the actual behavior of the natural world. I have been invited by Italian friends to attend the celebration of Galileo's tenure at padua in May, 09. This play will be on my mind.