Also see Ann's review of The Big Bang

Tony Abatemarco and
Daina Michelle Griffith

Peter Shaffer's Amadeus is a partially fictionalized account of the relationship between Antonio Salieri (Tony Abatemarco) and Wolfgang Mozart (Harris Doran). The play debuted at the National Theatre in London in 1979, later transferring to the West End. A Broadway production opened in 1980, winning five Tony Awards, and a film adaptation was well received in 1984. Amadeus is named for Mozart, but the play's core is with Salieri, a popular and respected composer, conductor and teacher who was Austria's Kapellmeister for over thirty years. Salieri enjoyed his social position and the admiration of his peers. Though the complete facts of their relationship are unclear, Schaeffer depicts Salieri as extremely jealous of the young, emerging composer - to the point of attempting to sabotage Mozart's success and livelihood, not to mention a desire to have him dead. He knows Mozart is a musical genius and feels God favors the young composer. Amadeus' Salieri reacts strongly to the personality of Mozart, which is at odds with what Salieri (and, perhaps almost everyone of the time) viewed to be appropriate to his profession. Depicted as relentlessly and publicly vulgar, Mozart looks to Salieri for assistance with his career and is met by deception and subversion cloaked in false benefaction. Bookended by scenes in 1823 Vienna in which Salieri's physical and mental health are failing, the bulk of the play consists of events during the years 1781 through 1791 (the year of Mozart's death).

Abatemarco finds a sound base from which to play Salieri. A seething jealousy and paranoia are conveyed clearly yet without overtness. His is a compelling portrayal of a tense, calculating and self-doubting man. Doran plays up Mozart's eccentricities without going over the top, and he conveys the perplexity felt by the confident composer, due to his lack of acceptance and success. The two actors are supported well by Daina Michelle Griffith as Constanze Weber (married to Mozart), Karen Baum as voice pupil Katherina Cavalieri, Kendra McLaughlin as Salieri's wife and an ensemble of dependable and versatile actors.

A most enjoyable part of attending a Public show is the excitement felt as one makes the turn to enter the theatre on the stage level, in anticipation of viewing from the distance of only a few feet, the set that has been constructed for the show. James Noone's set for Amadeus is one of a number of his designs which makes that revelation a breathtaking one. The floor is a beautiful parquet with a harp inlaid in the center. The detailed back wall shows stately columns and three sets of golden doors. Kirk Bookman's atmospheric lighting adds even more dimension, including a brilliant effect on the painted cherubs that hang above the back wall. Beautiful chandeliers hang from the ceiling, and sconces appoint the side walls, over the right and left areas of seating. Only a minimum of essential props and movable set pieces are necessary to complete the stunning look. Noone's designs do not overtake the productions; they are fascinating to admire before and after, but they integrate perfectly, enhance but not upstaging, when the players take the stage.

Costumes by Susan Tsu are equally impressive. Each outfit is detailed and meticulously made, and a variety of styles are utilized. Perhaps also under the guidance of Tsu, the players' wigs are realistic and well-fitted; all too often the opposite is the case, but these are notably well done.

Once again, Ted Pappas shows a joy of theatre through his direction. There's not a lazy moment in the production, and he puts all of the pieces together with his own lovely orchestration.

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-- Ann Miner

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