2nd Story Theatre's season of award-winning works continues with an eloquent, captivating production of "Amadeus," British playwright Peter Shaffer's compelling, fictionalized account of an obscure composer's mission to discredit the young musical prodigy who would come to be known as Mozart.
"Amadeus" premiered on Broadway in 1980 and won five Tony Awards, including Best Play. Shaffer won an Oscar for his screenplay of the 1984 film adaptation, which was also named Best Picture of that year.
Directed by Pat Hegnauer, "Amadeus" features 2nd Story Artistic Director Ed Shea, gracing the stage for the second time this season, as Antonio Salieri, the late 18th century Italian composer who rose to fame in Vienna, then was ruled by Emperor Joseph II (John Michael Richardson).
An anguished, dying Salieri addresses the audience and takes personal responsibility for wreaking havoc upon the life-and ultimately causing the death-of his creative counterpart, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Andrew Iacovelli). The alleged murderer then takes the audience on a journey back in time, all the while attempting to justify his unseemly disposition and subsequent behavior.
The established and highly-regarded Salieri becomes familiar with Mozart's work and acknowledges its brilliance, while facing the grim reality of its superiority to his own. After becoming acquainted with young Wolfgang, whose bawdy, boisterous manner bears no resemblance to the elegance of his talent as a composer, the belligerent elder conspires to demean and destroy anything touched by the musical genius.
Much of the history behind Shaffer's fictitious play is, of course, speculative, but it presents a fascinating portrait of the era and its musical influence, as well as the integral roles of religion and the monarchy within the arts.
Shea's emotionally heightened portrayal of Salieri is brilliant, rife with insolent determination and glaring desperation. Because this is a memory play and the entire story is based upon his character's recollection, the actor's commanding voice and stage presence are at an all time high.
In the title role, Iacovelli's impressive performance conveys Mozart's whimsical exuberance and incorrigible affinity for silliness, but also suggests an artist with natural talent, passion and above all, heart.
Supporting players worthy of special mention include a feisty Valerie Westgate, spot-on as Constanze, Mozart's loyal, iron-willed wife, and the fabulous Richardson, whose flashy, flamboyant portrayal of Joseph II gives new meaning to chewing the scenery.
Speaking of scenery, hats off to Candis Dixon's sleek stage set and Ron Cesario's sparkling costumes (the Venticelli, in particular, are reminiscent David Bowie, at Mardi Gras circa Victorian England).
2nd Story's glorious production of "Amadeus" is a feast for your eyes, ears and imagination.
"Amadeus" continues through Feb. 24 at 2nd Story Theatre, 28 Market Street, Warren, RI. For tickets and info, call 401-247-4200 or visit 2nd Story Theatre's website.