Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
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 rewardand 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, Olinickchunky and ungainlyat 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, andwith the help of Matthew Richards' sharply focused lightingthe 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