Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Folger Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of White Pearl and A Chorus Line

Ian Merrill Peakes and
Samuel Adams

Photo by C. Stanley Photography
Ian Merrill Peakes soars as Antonio Salieri in the production of Amadeus at the Folger Theatre in Washington, but at times Richard Clifford's direction of the three-hour play drags when it needs to race.

Peter Shaffer's 1979 drama of ambition thwarted and fulfilled—and a God who grants musical genius to the vulgar Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Samuel Adams) while withholding it from the devout Salieri—must be epic, operatic in its scope. In this production, some of Salieri's machinations become one thing they should never be: tedious.

Peakes' performance is vividly theatrical throughout, beginning as a feeble elderly man before stepping back into his days in the court of Austrian Emperor Joseph II (John Taylor Phillips). He's crafty and manipulative, true, but also truly anguished and awed by the miraculous music being produced by Mozart—when he isn't chasing his future wife Constanze (Lilli Hokama, fun-loving on the surface but steely when she needs to be) or offhandedly insulting everyone around him.

Samuel Adams embodies both the purity of Mozart's musical gift and the crude obliviousness of his personality, also showcased through Mariah Anzaldo Hale's gaudiest costumes and Dori Beau Seigneur's cotton-candy-colored wigs. Hokama is a skillful foil to Adams, and Phillips amuses as the clueless emperor who sums up everything with "Well, there it is."

Tony Cisek's scenic design emphasizes that the action is all taking place in Salieri's head and through his eyes, framed with large abstract set pieces of wood strung with cord to suggest pieces of a broken harp. Max Doolittle's lighting design is self-evidently nonrealistic, and Sharath Patel's sound design envelops the audience as well as the actors.

Folger Theatre
November 5th - December 22nd, 2019
By Peter Shaffer
Baron von Swieten: Justin Adams
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Samuel Adams
Venticello: Amanda Bailey
Venticello: Louis Butelli
Salieri's Valet: Junior Gomez
Constanze Weber: Lilli Hokama
Count Orsini-Rosenberg: James Joseph O'Neil
Teresa Salieri: Yvonne Paretzky
Antonio Salieri: Ian Merrill Peakes
Emperor Joseph II: John Taylor Phillips
Kapellmeister Bonno: Ned Read
Madame von Strack: Deidra LaWan Starnes
Katherina Cavalieri: Kathryn Zoerb
Directed by Richard Clifford
Folger Shakespeare Library, Elizabethan Theatre
201 E. Capitol St., SE
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-544-7077 or