Machines, Murder, and Mamet

The Franklin's da Vinci show, on stage with Lantern and Philadelphia Theatre Company and your last chance for PA Ballet's Classic Innovations

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Workshop at the Franklin Institute

Entering the cavernous space of the Franklin Institute’s Leonardo da Vinci’s Workshop, I was not sure what awaited me. Was it going to be some biographical exploration of the man, through sets and slideshows? Or perhaps some museum-ized treatise on a novel’s fictionalized conspiracies? No. This exhibit is a marvelous convergence of art and science. It’s an impactful study of the genius as an artistic inventor.

This exhibit, which has only been seen in Milan and New York City, was created by Leonardo3, a Milanese research center devoted to the physical and virtual reconstruction of da Vinci designs and ideas. What sets their work apart is the focus on creating items never before seen by the public, and reliance on da Vinci’s notes throughout his codices. Additionally, using modern technology, i.e., the touch-screen computer, visitors are able to see, in 2D and 3D, how Leonardo3 created the machines from the manuscripts and designs.

Walking among the pieces, you can’t help but feel overwhelmed by their magic and be in awe of the inventor. After all, these machines were designed almost 500 years ago. From the 3D-puzzle-like Mechanical Lion (a stunning centerpiece), to the working Harpsichord-Viola. And from the Robot-Knight to the Great Kite. Besides being working machines, each is an artistic masterpiece.

Due to a lot of text and the interactive computers, the exhibit may be too complex for younger audiences. But for everyone else, see Leonardo Da Vinci’s Workshop as soon as you can.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Workshop opens tomorrow (February 5) and runs through May 22.

Don’t Miss: Two ferocious productions, currently running in separate Philly theaters, are eerily similar: a four-person cast, a simplified set, a plot focused on whether or not one of the men committed a crime, and a script written by one of the finest modern playwrights.

[SIGNUP]The first is the Lantern Theater Company’s vigorous production of Martin McDonagh’s A Skull in Connemara. Though not his best play, it illustrates McDonagh’s strengths — juxtaposition of brutality and humor. Directed by M. Craig Getting and Kathryn MacMillan (with a wonderful, skeletal set by Dirk Duossette), the cast, particularly Stephen Novelli and Jered McLenigan, perfectly captures the corporeal humor and makes the outlandish scenes seem almost normal. (Like the excessively long scene of decimating human bones with hammers.) It is often hilarious … and gleefully disturbing. Runs through February 13.

The second is the Philadelphia Theatre’s Company scorching production of David Mamet’s Race. Unlike Skull’s weapon of choice, the hammer, in Race, the characters stab and bludgeon with words. Not just any words — like Mamet’s favorite verb and noun: fuck — but those tinged with racism. Directed by Scott Zigler, the cast perfectly captures the Mamet-ian cadence. Lead by wonderful performances from Ray Anthony Thomas and Jordan Lage, The tone and intent of words begin slowly but continue to increase until the heart-pounding finale. It is a difficult and piercing production that stays with you long after the bows. Runs through February 20.

Limited Engagement: The Pennsylvania Ballet’s Classic Innovations includes pieces from world-renowned choreographers William Forsythe, Christopher Wheeldon, and Twyla Tharp and runs through this Sunday, February 6.