"Temperamentally, I'm more inclined to agree with Leonardo. Science cannot be blindly moving forward because society will find a way to abuse it," Davalos said. "But, realistically, Machiavelli is right. History has proven time and again that realists have an advantage over idealists."
Davalos wanted to have fun with history rather than make his play an archival exercise. Every character is a witty, well-spoken quipster. The dialogue in some passages is grand discourse fit for historical giants, but Davalos also has his characters mouth lines from "The Godfather" and throws in contemporary jokes, anachronisms that could give moderns a chuckle. At one point, Machiavelli wonders whether Leonardo would care to apply his genius to inventing the paper shredder. "That would be especially useful in my line of work." In another instance, Leonardo, disgusted with his fortunes as an artist, hands a patroness a sketch he has made and tells her, "I believe that and three ducats will purchase you a cup of grappa."
"The Masterpiece Theater thing, the elevated language, is closer to poetry," Davalos said. "I wanted to go there, but I wanted to have it both ways by also being colloquial. It's a way of getting the audience into the world of the play by showing the parallels and bringing the characters closer to our experience."
Davalos said he devotes about half his time to writing, acting and directing; the rest is spent making a living as a freelance designer of graphics used in business presentations. His next play concerns Ambrose Bierce, the acerbic journalist and fiction writer who disappeared in 1913 after riding off to join the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa.
"The more research I do into [Bierce's] life and disappearance and his fiction, the more it seems they are speaking to us now," Davalos said.
"The trick is to tell a historical story, but tell it so the audience doesn't feel as though they are looking at an artifact."
"Daedalus," South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Tonight at 7:30. $8. (714) 708-5555.