Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Amadeus"

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note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Larry Stark


by Peter Shaffer
Directed by Kirsten Gould

Lighting Design by D. Schweppe
Set Design by David Atwood
Costume Design & Construction by Kathy Booth
Sound Design by Robert Zawistowski
Music Consultant Susan Minor
Wigs and Makeup by Jack Wickwire
Produced by Lynn Dinger
Stage Manager Kurt Lanza

Antonio Salieri..................Jim Barton
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart........Jeff Mahoney
Constanze....................Michelle Mount
Emperor Joseph II...............David Berti
Venticelli #1....................John Small
Venticelli #2................Bill Stambaugh
Count Von Strack..............Michael Lague
Count Orsini-Rosenberg...Robert Zawistowski
Teresa Salieri...............Mary Rutkowski
Count Van Sweiten.......Rich Schieferdecker
Major Domo/Ghost................David Gould
Kapplemeister Bono...............Jim Curley
Katharina Cavalleri........ ...Melissa Sine
Cook..........................Peri Chouteau
Valet........................Evan Bernstein

Now that I've seen Peter Shaffer's stage-play "Amadeus", every time I think of the film of the same name I consider it not an "adaptation" but a desecration of the original. [NOTE: "Quick definitions 'desecration' noun: blasphemous behavior; the act of depriving something of its sacred character."] Thanks to The Vokes Players, their Producer Lynn Dinger, Director Kirsten Gould and a Dream Team of actors, designers, and crew this thoroughly theatrical, holy play has been restored --- thanks be to Thespis. Bravo!

Shaffer's title is not simply a play on Mozart's middle name, but the center of the conflict. It means "Loved of God" --- which the narrating Court Composer Antonio Salieri longed to be. More, he longed to be the Spokesman of God through music, to feel heavenly music played Through himself. It is a rude shock therefore for him to hear such sublime sounds played instead through a snivelling, giggling, foul-mouthed petulent child of 23 with "amadeus" more than his middle name. Doomed by history to be his second-fiddle, Salieri is the one person best equipped to understand Mozart's genius --- and to hate him for it.

Shaffer's play is pure theater! It begins with people shouting in the streets "Can you believe it? I can't believe it! Could it be true? It can't be true!" for Salieri, old and dying, forgotten by history, raves that he poisoned Mozart --- trying with this pitiful ploy to link his faintly remembered name with an immortal. He sings an Invocation, saying "Opera was nothing but invocations, till I came along" and invokes --- an audience of The Future, (i.e.: us!) and proceeds to tell his story in bitingly witty aphorisms and aria-like monologues in which he bitterly challenges God Himself for making Salieri music's second-banana.

As Salieri, Jim Barton heads a brilliant cast of selfless actors molded by Director Kirsten Gould into the glittering, bewigged Austrian Court of Emperor Joseph II. Seated repeatedly as audience for snippets of concerts and opera, some of the most glittering names in community theatre can be seen swelling scenes and moving scenery, stepping only momentarily out of the mass for brief, glowing moments. Witness Peri Chouteau cast simply as "cook": she has maybe two or three lines and a scream --- a scream no one will forget.

David Berti does that as the Emperor, Michael Lague and Robert Zawitowski do it as pawns in Salieri's vicious games, Melissa Sine has an unforgettable walk-on, while John Small and Bill Stambaugh as Salieri's gossip-collectors are almost a mini-chorus all themselves. In Kathy Booth's dazzling costumes and Jack Wickwire's sculptural wigs, these festooned individuals merge into a court at the flick of a finger.

Jeff Mahoney as Mozart and Michelle Mount as his low-born and sharp-tongued wife Constanze stand out, of course, from that mass. Shaffer's play does not dwell on Mozart's dazzling output but instead on his petulent, own-worst-enemy brashness, his hate-love contempt for his father, and his bewilderment when no one, least of all his "friend" Salieri, will pay him what he's worth. His gutter-humor and potty-tongue don't help his egotism either.

Mount's Constanze, angry and frustrated at her husband's profligate poverty, will do anything --- Literally, ANYthing --- to get him a paying court post or rich pupils, but even she caves into invective and stays with her parents as Mozart's health, aspirations, and talent ebb and die.

In one of many triumphs of theatricality, the heartily narrating Salieri turns into a maniacally raving septuagenarian as Jim Barton slips back into not just an old costume, but an aged persona. His success slipping through his fingers as Constanze sells Mozart's musical miracles for the cost of copying inks, Salieri fails even to die on schedule, and even his claim to be Mozart's assassin is believed by no one. I don't believe it. Do you? I don't!

What I do believe, however, is that the Vokes Players have brought Peter Shaffer's wonderful play brilliantly alive on their stage --- where it belongs. Love, ===Anon. ( a k a larry stark )

"Amadeus" (2-18 March)
Route 20, WAYLAND, MA
1 (508) 358-4034

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