THE FLEDGLING Bay Area company Inferno Theatre is off to a promising start with Galileo’s Daughters. This new play, written and directed by Giulio Cesare Perrone, details the relationship between the great natural philosopher Galileo Galilei and his two daughters, Celeste and Arcangela, as well as his difficulties in publishing a book advocating the heliocentric model, in which the Earth revolves around the sun.

Other plays, such as Bertolt Brecht’s Life of Galileo, have focused on the conflict between faith and reason that Galileo’s struggle epitomizes. Galileo lived during a dangerous time in European and Italian history, when the same societies that produced great works of art and science also gave rise to witch hunts and religious persecution. The Catholic Church, which held the Earth to be the center of the universe, labeled Galileo a heretic and attempted to suppress his ideas. These hardships play a large role in Galileo’s Daughters, but interestingly, there is no conflict between scientifically minded Galileo and his devoutly religious daughters, both nuns of the order of Saint Clare.

As the play begins, Galileo (Michael McCamish) appears with Celeste and Arcangela (Valentina Emeri and Simone Bloch, respectively). The daughters kneel and pray, while Galileo remains standing, clutching two orbs, which he rotates in his hands. It is clear from the start that these three have very different ways of looking at the world, but as the story unfolds, they show each other nothing but love.

Arcangela is prone to superstition, and at one point, after looking at the moon through her father’s telescope, says, “I like it better from a distance, Papa.” Celeste is more intelligent and takes an active interest in Galileo’s work. However, both are equally supportive, seeing him not as a heretic but as someone uncovering the truth of God’s creation.

McCamish’s portrayal of Galileo is stilted (apparently a stylistic decision), though nonetheless convincing. He looks bent, weary and half-blind, but there is a vigorous and optimistic mind in there, reflecting his hopeful belief that “The truth can never be silenced, it can only be revealed more slowly.” This slow-paced, expressionistic play is not geared toward a mainstream audience, but it is a beautiful story, one that is greatly complemented by Bruno Louchouarn’s haunting musical score and excellent period costumes designed by Anne Victoria Banks Perrone. Those inclined toward serious historical drama will certainly enjoy it.

Galileo’s Daughters
Inferno Theatre
Thursday-Saturday, 8pm, Sunday, 2pm, runs
through May 8
Theatre on San Pedro Square, San Jose
Tickets $24
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