Amadeus Amazes at 2nd Story Theatre

The play focuses on the battle between mediocrity and greatness among composers.


Published:

Ed Shea as Antonio Salieri and Andrew Iacovelli as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Richard W. Dionne, Jr.

Antonio Salieri thought he did everything right. At sixteen, he devoted himself to God in the hopes that he would bestow upon him great success as a composer. And indeed, by the late 1700s, the hard-working Salieri had become the court composer for Emperor Joseph II of Austria.

But as the mesmerizing performance of Amadeus now playing at 2nd Story Theatre shows, even the best-laid plans can go awry. The plays opens on the last night of Salieri’s life, when the spectral-looking composer relives his fury that despite his teenage bargaining and subsequent good behavior, God chose another composer to translate the divine to earth: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The fictionalized play, written by Peter Shaffer, explores Salieri’s jealousy and the eventual compromising of his own morals as he grapples with the seeming unfairness of Mozart’s genius in comparison to his own mediocrity.

Brash, rude and unbelievably talented, Mozart unnerves Salieri as soon as they cross paths. He bursts onto to the scene in a teal coat and shoes, and highlighted hair, making crude jokes and chasing the woman who later becomes his wife. He’s also quite confident about his work. Salieri, unlike others of his time, recognizes Mozart’s genius and hears the voice of God in his compositions.

“Messy Mozart invents, innovates, breaks through the boundaries of his time’s art to transform the ordinary of his everyday life into the timeless immortal,” reads an essay about the production. To Salieri,  “it isn’t fair.” Consumed with jealousy, the cunning Salieri plots to destroy Amadeus’s chances for success.

Mozart eventually marries, tones down his dress and tries to gain students for money to support his family, only to be thwarted by Salieri. While Salieri can’t change the brillance of Mozart’s work, he is able to make his life quite difficult, however, by making sure Mozart falls out of favor with the court.

Struggling for money, Mozart eventually falls ill and dies at thirty-five. Years later, Salieri is still consumed by his jealousy. Just before Salieri’s death, he fuels the speculation that he poisoned the promising composer.

Part petty professional rivalry and part meditation on the role of the divine in art, Amadeus is also dotted with Mozart's timeless music, laced with humor and filled with great performances. Artistic director Ed Shea is wonderful as the bitter yet sympathetic Salieri, and Andrew Iacovelli fun as the irreverent Mozart. The production takes viewers into the intrigue of the court, with moralizers who are offended by Mozart’s unusual compositions to the hilariously theatrical emperor (John Michael Richardson), who gives Mozart a chance. And the period costumes--with some modern flashes--do a great job of revealing the characters' personalities.

Don’t miss it.

Amadeus is playing through February 17 at 2nd Story Theatre, 28 Market Street, Warren. For tickets, call 247-4200 or email the box office at boxoffice@2ndstorytheatre.com.

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