Learning while you laugh

Starry Messenger

Cap’n Mitch: still a card.

Cap’n Mitch: still a card.

Rated 4.0

This cute, two-character play features a conversation in the afterlife between an elderly Galileo (white haired Mitch Agruss, the patriarch of Sacramento’s theater scene) and his daughter (played alternately by Bonnie Antonini or Keri Fuller).

It’s part history, describing how Renaissance scientists struggled under powerful church authorities who resisted Galileo’s suggestion that the earth moves around the sun.

It’s also part science lesson, including Galileo’s discovery of Jupiter’s moons using a homemade telescope, a comparison of swinging pendulums of different lengths, and a demonstration that a ten-pound object doesn’t fall faster than a two-pound object.

And it’s even a comedy, with the crusty Galileo warming when he learns that his work is renowned in the 21st century as the foundation of modern astronomy and physics.

But best of all, Starry Messenger is a marvelous vehicle for Agruss, an octogenarian who uses his twinkling eyes, melodious voice, and perfectly timed delivery to charm the socks off the audience for 75 minutes. The man’s a treasure, and any time you expend enjoying this performance is time well-spent. (If you’re a middle-aged adult who recalls Agruss from his bygone years as “Cap’n Mitch” on local TV, you’ll get an extra lift.)

Playwright Rick Foster of Sonora has outfitted Starry Messenger for an educational mission; it’s available for school performances, starting in January. But it also makes delightful December entertainment, which children and adults can honestly enjoy.