What teenager hasn’t begged their father to change his mind about something—a curfew, maybe, or a coveted new pair of shoes? Ira Hauptman’s Starry Messenger stages just such a standoff, only here the stubborn patriarch is none other than Galileo, whose whiny offspring beseech him to recant his world-changing astronomical discoveries. (In Renaissance Florence, cool kids didn’t have religious heretics for dads.)
Hauptman offers an endearingly earnest look at the stargazer’s dilemma—helped by Susan Einhorn’s efficient direction, and David Little’s capable performance as Galileo. But Starry Messenger doesn’t bring anything new about the astronomer into focus. Tunic-clad actors stride purposefully across a bare stage, badgering Galileo to renounce his shocking declaration that the Earth rotates around the sun. One daughter insists recanting would rescue plague-stricken Florence, while her delirious sister turns oracle, rattling off revelations from the future—gravity, evolution, atom bombs. “Subatomic particles!” she shrieks. “My God, restore her mind,” Galileo replies.
This is an amusing reminder that most scientific truths once seemed incomprehensible, and that progress often begets destruction. But didn’t we already know that? Brecht wrote Galileo, his masterpiece on the same subject, right after the first nuclear explosions. Religion versus science always makes for feisty drama—but breakthroughs are hard to come by when you’re re-performing old experiments.