The PopCulteer
January 30, 2010

The Contemporary Youth Arts Company production of Bertholt Brecht’s “Galileo” is an intriguing look at the the historical struggle between religion and reason, framed by the human failings of the man who some saw as threat, others as a hero and many as a sellout.

This dramatization of the rise and fall of pioneering astronomer, Galileo Galilei traces his breakthrough, taking credit for the invention of the telescope, to his studies in Florence, which revolutionized science and physics, but which also drew the ire of the Catholic Church, which was opposed to the idea that the Earth revolved around the Sun. Galileo’s persecution by the church

Nik Tidquist portrays Galileo, not as a hero, but as a human, with real human motivations, desires and appetites. He breathes life into the role with an exceptionally believable performance. Through Tidquist we get to meet a complex man who balances his quest for knowledge with his strong sense of self-preservation.

We witness a Galileo who is not above indulging in a little chicanery to get what he wants. His sense of survival leads him to recant his findings in the face of torture, but his thirst for knowledge finds him still continuing his studies afterward.

Caroline Kapo as Galileo’s daughter, Virginia, walks a fine line between comic relief and pathos. With little interest in science, she pressures her father to toe the line with the church and suppress his lust for learning. The role reversal near the end is very well-played.

Austin Thomas as Andrea Sarti and Maria Fioravante as Federazoni also stand out among the impressive young cast.  With CYAC veteran Chris Auge,as the Little Monk, Galileo’s three loyal followers go from hero worship to stark disillusionment, when he recants. The trio sinks into despair with harmonious realism.

Mary Beth Griffith provides the common folk’s perspective as Andrea’s mother, Galileo’s housekeeper. She also plays violin and sings in an unexpected April Fool’s Day musical number which ends the first half of the play.

This is a terrific ensemble, with many actors filling multiple roles. Meredith Overcash is memorable as both Cardinal (later Pope) Barberini, and Priulli,the Venetian museum curator. Kirill Guru is distinctive as both Virgina’s hesitant Dutch suitor, Ludivico  Marsili and as an officer of the royal court of Florence.

Paige Baisden narrates in a lively manner, and also fills out several supporting roles. Amanda Mandarola, John Szasz, Emily Jesse, and Quinton Baker round out this very capable cast.  A detailed cast list is included in the program, acting a bit as a scorecard to keep everything clear.

Director, Dan Kehde, has done a remarkable job presenting Brecht’s work. The elaborate set wraps around the audience and draws you into the world of the early seventeenth century with great effectiveness. The staging adds a dimensionality that you don’t often find in the theater.

Brecht’s play brings us a Galileo who is driven by his need to live well and his appetite for knowledge.  It’s a very thought-provoking examination of the politics and personal motivations that play into one individual’s role in history.

This vibrant production showcases some of the area’s top young talent, and serves Brecht well.

If You Go: CYAC presents Bertholt Brecht’s “Galileo” 8 p.m. January 30 and February 5 and 6 at the historic WVSU Capitol Center Theater
123 Summers St
Charleston WV

Tickets are $9.50 for adults and $5.50 for students and seniors