Uh oh. I’m in trouble. As a reviewer, I’ve been accused of being too kind to the productions I critique. While I try to rebut those accusations, pointing out plays I’ve panned, albeit with some subtlety, I won’t be able to cite this review as evidence that I can be particularly hardnosed.
Because, honestly, “Amadeus” is simply a wonderful show, the favorite of all I’ve seen by the Camelot Theatre Company over the past few years.
No, it’s not perfect: in the way Mozart’s court critics accused him of writing too many notes, playwright Peter Shaffer wrote too many words, albeit very clever ones, and the show is longer than it needs to be. And the occasional and brief lip-synched singing was somewhat hard on the ear. But on the negative side of the ledger, that’s about it.
The touch of the director, Livia Genise, is light and deft; she manages the shifts in time smoothly and seamlessly. The performances, from top to bottom, are consistent and consistently professional; and that’s rare and quite an accomplishment for a company that is, primarily unpaid. The set design by Paul R. Flowers, particularly the sparing but effective use of the rear projection screen to create expansive, evocative and sometimes sumptuous scenes, facilitates a natural flow.
If I can be blamed for anything in this critique, it’s for burying my praise of the performances of Paul R. Jones and Max Gutfreund in the fifth paragraph. With a masterful command of the nuances of his complex character—both as a doddering old man on his deathbed and in his prime—Jones plays Antonio Salieri. The Italian composer, servant of the Hapsburg monarchy in Vienna, is the brightest musical star of the firmament…at least until his fame is threatened and eclipsed by the prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
To his credit, Gutfreund’s take on the infantile genius with his pinballing sexuality, vulgar tongue and deliciously-irritating cackle, goes far deeper than mere comic mugging or caricature. Rather, he peels back Mozart’s layers to reveal a character deserving of our sympathies, if not our affection.
The story, filtered through the eyes and ears of Salieri, is compelling because it is not one about simple envy of one man for another’s talents—an envy that may or may not have resulted in murder—but of Solieri’s struggle with God, who clearly must be manifesting His divine perfection in the loose-lipped, rude and impertinent young man that Salieri refers to as “the creature.” And that, to Saliera, is a very bad cosmic joke.
Kudos to Ryan Primm and Brian O’Connor for their entertaining and exuberant turns as Salieri’s servants who are enlisted to spy on the competition. Outlandishly costumed, this terrific tweeting top-hatted, comic tandem reminded me of Lewis Carroll’s Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
If you want to experience the best of the Camelot company’s work, see “Amadeus” in Talent through Feb. 24.