Accusations, feuds fuel the history in ‘Divine Rivalry’


If you go

■ What: ‘Divine Rivalry’

■ Where: 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park

■ When: Matinees, evenings to Aug. 5

■ Tickets: From $29 ■ Box Office: (619) 234-5623

■ Website:

By Diana Saenger

History buffs and art devotees will enjoy a trip back in time to learn about a curious competition between artists Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci that really took place centuries ago. The Old Globe Theatre’s West Coast premiere of “Divine Rivalry” tells the story with intrigue, surprise and a delightful reminder of the treasure these two geniuses gave the world.

Italian diplomat Niccolò Machiavelli (Sean Lyons) is perplexed. He’s looking into the future and fearing his beloved Florence may face horrific danger from warring countries.

As Michelangelo’s new statue of David is put into place, crowds fill the streets shouting praise.

Head of State Piero Soderini (David Selby) is also in flux, walking a slippery political tightrope. He’s about to relieve Niccolò for an error with a prior assignment, but then the young counselor Niccolò hears the roar from the streets below and comes up with a new plan. He will bring people to Florence thereby hailing its signifi- cance in the art world.

Niccolò’s first visit is to da Vinci who is working on a plan for human flight. He reveals his idea to the artist who is astute in understand- ing Niccolò’s personal agenda. The men work each other to get what they want.

Even though da Vinci (Miles Anderson) is aghast (he will have to share a room painting with his biggest competitor), he’s thrilled to have bargained for four times what Michelangelo will earn. Paying his next visit to Michelangelo (Euan Morton), Niccolò makes another half- truth deal.

Morton and Anderson are wonderful in their roles, especially during the mean-spirited critiques of each other’s work: Michelangelo gives his review of the flaking of da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” and in turn, da Vinci shows his rival his own sketch of the David, and how he would correct the “obvious flaws.”

Lyons, too, makes easy work of his conniving character, who is also well-spoken and engaging. Selby becomes Soderini in every mood and uncertainty.

The Globe design team (Jeff Cowie, Robert Wierzel, Peter Nigrini, David C. Woolard) have created an excellent stage that easily transports the audience to another era.

Visuals of both artists appear throughout the play above the scenes to further art education. The characters don’t reveal the actual famous works, but hint, at their them.

“Why is she smiling?” Michelangelo asks.

“The ambiguity is its beauty,” Leonardo replies.