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The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci 

A lite-intellectual romp through the master's mind -- with dancing

Wednesday, Sep 24 2003
Mary Zimmerman's funny and sometimes enthralling Metamorphoses passed through Berkeley four years ago before its unlikely success on Broadway. It wove together a number of stories from Ovid using an onstage pool of water not just as a connecting theme or an erotic device or a source of humor (it was all of those), but also as a symbol of transformation. Nothing quite so interesting happens in her earlier play, The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. The script is a collection of quotes and observations from da Vinci's disorganized notebooks, brought to life onstage by eight actors moving, dancing, interacting with scientific equipment that might have been found on Leonardo's desk, or (in one funny scene) trying to take off with his famous flying machine. The problem is that the notebooks have no dramatic arc, and Zimmerman doesn't fuse them in any trenchant, poetic way, as she did the myths in Metamorphoses (with Ovid's help). The result is a lite-intellectual romp through da Vinci's mind, which gives up a handful of brilliant insights that alone might be worth the price of admission, except that the 90-minute show feels like a science program for adults, adorned with graceful movement and dance routines instead of silly mad scientists and colored balls.


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