“David,” one of the most important Renaissance masterpieces, has mesmerized the world ever since Michelangelo finished the sculpture in 1504. Playwright Claudia Shear drew inspiration for a story when she was intrigued by the woman commissioned to restore “David” in 2004. Shear was commissioned to write and play the lead role of Giulia in the World Premiere of “Restoration” running in the La Jolla Playhouse’s Mandell Weiss Forum now through July 19.
L’Accademia in Florence, deciding to do some restoring of “David” to celebrate its 500th birthday, is in search of a restorer. Giulia is an atypical artist to be commissioned to restore such a prominent art piece. She’s insecure, has let her once notable reputation slip away and is wedged in her mother’s deserted garage working on menial tasks. She admits she is a cleaner and thrills at the “magical transformation after an object is clean.”
This small light of truthfulness and the knowledge that she is the exact person for the job is why Professor Williams (Alan Mandell), Giulia’s former teacher, recommends her. Reluctantly Giulia travels to Italy for an interview. When she’s told by interviewer Maricante (Natalija Nogulich) that she lacks the sensitivity of a restorer, it’s fighting words to Giulia’s ears, and she earns the position.
Although Shear is an award-winning playwright and actress (“Dirty Blonde,” “Blown Sideways Through Life”), she could have had no move divine inspiration for her play than “David” himself. She managed to secure a private time alone with the famous statute and interview people who see the statue every day as well as Parnagoni.
The set and cast are small and Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley did a nice job of keeping all the roles on even ground. Max (Daniel Serafini-Sauli), the security guard who spends every day with “David,” is the one who eventually discovers that Giulia has a hole in her life. She’s shut herself off from feelings and to encourage her he says, “The past is either water or mud and you either get stuck or push on through it.”
Giulia hardly agrees with Max, and reacts like an angry cat whenever Daphne (Kate Shindle), a media hungry publicist comes around with another group of press to watch Giulia’s progress. She now sees “David” as the most beautiful man in the world - her man - and handles every caress of marble as if it were soft, sensual skin. Seeing Daphne’s beauty is yet another reminder to Giulia of her insufficiencies that has left her alone and grouchy.
Shear keeps her character’s obsession of detail forefront in her portrayal of Giulia. It’s artfully accented by a simplistic set that features a tall credenza with individual storage spaces of “David’s” parts including a foot, brow, chest, buttocks and genitals. Giulia works on each one with tender loving care.
“Restoration” is an insightful look at art, life, romance and, ultimately for Giulia, a renewal of herself.
- Now – July 19
- Mandell Weiss Forum at the La Jolla Playhouse
- 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla
- (858) 550-1010