By Kathy Carpenter
“Because the subjects of the world are many, and memory alone cannot retain them,” said Mary Zimmerman. Leonardo Da Vinci wrote over 5,000 pages in notebooks over his lifetime. Many of these notebooks took centuries to discover. Da Vinci wrote of his hopes, his dreams, what he learned, what he was studying, his ideas, and life, what today we would call journaling. The Old Globe presents “The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci.” The play is written and directed by Mary Zimmerman, “Abstract-ism of Brilliance”.
Zimmerman says this is a collection without order, fragments from a genius pieced together and framed as contemporary art. A richly decorated stage, colorful costumes, a couple of beautifully choreographed contemporary dance segments, and our subjects have us captivated. It’s like watching the art unfold, as if revealing the Mona Lisa, herself.
Two autobiographical memories are depicted in fragmented moments mixed into the scene, one of Da Vinci as a babe, where a falcon comes to him, and one where he is at the edge of a cave, afraid to enter, yet afraid not to – in case he might miss the wondrous “indistinct things” nature has left within.
The play has eight narrators, eight people speaking different notes from Da Vinci. As each Da Vinci would recite his notes the other actors would surround him acting out a reference point to what was being spoken. Usually something ridiculous which made people laugh. For me, it was a bit distracting to try to focus on both what was being said and the actions at the same time. All words spoken in the show except for a minor interaction are Leonardo Da Vinci’s words taken directly from his notebooks. The acting was phenomenal as they acted out motions opposed to a character. A different and more difficult type of talent. Zimmerman’s vision is a unique look behind the genius of Leonardo Da Vinci.
The quote scribbled in the corner of one of Da Vinci’s notebooks I believe describes Zimmerman’s feelings on the subject perfectly. “Great love comes from great knowledge of the beloved object; and if you know a little, you can love it a little, or not at all.”
The Leonardo Da Vinci’s were played by Adeoye, Christopher Donohue, Kasey Foster, John Gregorio, Anthony Irons, Louise Lamson, Andrea San Miguel, and Wai Yim. The women were especially powerful.
Does one know what another is thinking when they make a notation? Leonardo Da Vinci had great powers of vision and so does Zimmerman expressed in this unique piece of theater. Only you can decide what these visions will mean for you.
The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci
Old globe Theatre
Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage