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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Amadeus

Amadeus
Sasha Olinick and Edward Gero
Peter Shaffer's play Amadeusis now more than 30 years old, but the crackle of its language, and its intellectual and emotional concerns are as timely as ever in the glorious production now at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland.

Shaffer's fantasia on musical history is not a true story, but it conveys a deeper truth through its words and its use of music. It concerns the rivalry between two composers in the 18th-century Viennese court of Emperor Joseph II (Floyd King).

Antonio Salieri (Edward Gero), highly regarded in his time, has devoted his life to praising God through his musical works and helping his community through charitable organizations. Then he crosses paths with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Sasha Olinick), a smutty boor who, nonetheless, writes music of pure and astonishing beauty. That paradox is enough to make Salieri question how God decides whom to reward—and to take action against God's judgment by working against his "instrument." (Amadeus translates from Latin as "beloved of God.")

Gero, who has appeared for 28 seasons with Washington's Shakespeare Theatre Company, gives a sublime performance as Salieri, finely modulated between the joy he takes in Mozart's compositions and the anguish that he lacks a similar gift. He can be remarkably subtle in his actions, yet rage at heaven with no sense of exaggeration. As the socially awkward Mozart, Olinick—chunky and ungainly—at first is as off-putting to the audience as he is to the courtiers he unknowingly insults, but the characterization becomes warmer as the composer deals with the insecurities he tries to hide beneath a brittle exterior shell.

Laura C. Harris sparkles as Mozart's wife Constanze, who loves and is exasperated by her childlike husband, often both at once. King amuses as a ruler who doesn't really like the hands-on part of governing, and JJ Kaczynski and KenYatta Rogers find interesting gradations of character as Salieri's spies.

Scenic designer James Kronzer has filled the vast Round House stage with a breathtaking set that encompasses the imperial palace, the altar of a cathedral, and—with the help of Matthew Richards' sharply focused lighting—the increasingly shabby homes that Mozart shares with his wife Constanze. The detail work alone is painstaking and remarkable: an inlaid parquet floor; massive columns painted to resemble marble; and massive doors that silently swing open and closed.

Round House Theatre
Amadeus
May 11th - June 5th
By Peter Shaffer
Antonio Salieri: Edward Gero
Count Johann Kilian von Strack, Groom of the Imperial Chamber/ensemble: Toby Mulford
Major Domo/ensemble: Scott McCormick
Venticello 1: JJ Kaczynski
Venticello 2: KenYatta Rogers
Teresa Salieri/ensemble: Sabrina Mandell
Katherina Cavalieri/ensemble: Caroline Mahoney
Count Franz Orsini-Rosenberg, Director of the Imperial Opera/ensemble: Jefferson A. Russell
Baron Gottfried van Swieten, Prefect of the Imperial Library/ensemble: Steven Carpenter
Constanze Weber, wife of Mozart: Laura C. Harris
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Sasha Olinick
Joseph II, Emperor of Austria: Floyd King
Directed by Mark Ramont
4545 East-West Highway
Bethesda, MD
Ticket Information: 240-644-1100 or www.roundhousetheatre.org


Photo: Danisha Crosby


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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