The American debut was delayed further while the Goodwins — who take more than a passing interest in each other's projects — waited for planets (and schedules) to align. "[Then] Dick got involved with writing the last part of the Lincoln book with me," notes Doris.

"And then," adds Brookline-native Goodwin with absolute sincerity, "we had to wait for the Red Sox to win the World Series."

One reversed curse (and a second, somewhat anti-climactic, World Series championship) later, the play made it across the pond to Goodwin's home base, having undergone a title change, some major character developments, and, as is generally the case in theater, ongoing dialogue tweaks that will likely continue until the very last minute.

"I think [my background in] speechwriting helped," says Goodwin. "Speech is dialogue. It may seem like just an individual talking, but you have to consider the impact on the audience, and what people think. The worst thing about speeches, though, is you can't tell the president what to say if he doesn't want to say it. On the other hand, when you write a play, you can make them say anything you want. . . . It's a little easier in some ways than writing for politicians, or for presidents, especially, because the characters you write about can't tell you they won't say [your lines]. While presidents do do that."

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PAPAL JAM: Pope Urban VIII (left) and Galileo Galilei’s clash over the Earth’s orbit around the sun resonates today with the battle between creationism an science.

Continuing warfare
"Richard is not like a first-time playwright," says Goodwin's director, Hall. "He's spent his life trying to figure out how to communicate ideas. He's spent his life writing for theater, really. He has a unique ability to see the opposite truth in every statement, and if you are to create anything worthy of debate, you have to have that talent."

That ability to represent different viewpoints is especially important to the continuing pertinence of the play, as the science-versus-religion battle that raged in 17th-century Florence continues to be waged today — in both our school and our government.

This year also marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, father of modern-evolution theory, whose very name still provokes bitter contempt from proponents of creationism, now repackaged as "intelligent design."

"We have a war still going on in our background, and some very threatening circumstances," says Goodwin. "We have the continuing debate, which we'll always have, I think, between religion and science. A lot of scientists are now writing books trying to tell you why it's best to be an atheist. But that's all a continuing part of the fabric of the human condition.

"Science works," Goodwin adds with a shrug. "Is it the truth? We'll never know."

Two Men of Florence runs from March 6 through April 5 at the Huntington Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, in Boston. Call 617.266.0800 or visit huntingtontheatre.org. Sara Faith Alterman can be reached at salterman@phx.com.

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