In this corner, maestro Leonardo da Vinci – Florence’s self-proclaimed eccentric genius. And in this corner, young Michelangelo Buonarroti, the self-proclaimed vessel through which God himself gives life to art. A competition in Florence in 1504 between these towering egos is the premise of Divine Rivalry at the Old Globe Theatre.
The West Coast premiere of the play by Michael Kramer (with D.S. Moynihan) is a clash of personalities more than mere tableau, with Leonardo (Miles Anderson) and Michelangelo (Euan Morton) railing against each other’s less-than-divine artistic shortcomings even as they’re manipulated by the coolly ambitious Machiavelli (Sean Lyons). The competition is a political device of his designed to rouse a citizen army.
This all said, the dramatic tension in Divine Rivalry comes and goes. Lyons could use more darkness and less smugness as the grand manipulator, and the competition never feels that important to its contestants, try as Anderson and Morton do to appear tortured in its cause. Leonardo’s and Michelangelo’s eventual grudging appreciation of each other’s mastery is more eloquent than the insults and intrigue that precede it.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.