Jay O’Berski, artistic director of Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern and director of the Leviathan Theatre Company’s current production of Amadeus, states that his goal was “rehabilitating [Peter Shaffer’s 1979] play from it’s strong associations with the Academy Award®-winning 1984 film,”; and he has certainly accomplished that.
Employing elements of Comedia Dell’Arte and movements which may hearken to the Étienne Decroux School in France, and possibly the Roy Hart School also of France, this performance will not remind you in the least of the movie of the same name. Hideous, gorgeous masks help define the nature of some characters, outlandish costumes and hairdos bespeak the decadence of the times, the stylized movements and gesticulations accent the agonies and prides of characters.
The vocal intonations tell us that we are witnessing comedy and high emotion carried to meaningful extremes, and licentiousness runs rampant under the petticoats and out in the open. Themes of vengeance, pathological jealousy, the gut-wrenching unfairness of life, corruption, gluttony, poverty, and tragedy weave themselves through the story.
Leviathan has chosen to represent Salieri as the same age as Mozart, which makes the tension between Constanza and Salieri a bit more biting. All this lush performance contained within a black-box stage with open prop tables and workshops strongly enhances the action and flamboyance of the action. Spectacular is almost too weak a word for the effect.
John Jimerson introduces his character, Antonio Salieri, by traipsing himself around in an electric wheel chair, mumbling indiscernible rantings, as the audience enters and settles. He is obviously lost in world from which he cannot escape. From there on, he becomes marvelously animated as he guides us through the hated story of Mozart’s rise to mastery of his art.
Salieri, whose only goal in life was fame and fortune, must deal with the cold fact that his efforts are feeble beside those of the upstart genius, whose life also bursts like fireworks into the stolid life of the court of Kaiser Joseph II. John Jimerson even manages to gain our sympathy for his character, whose resentment ultimately is too familiar to us all, perhaps, at one time or another.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — he who is loved of God apparently — is played with great delight and humor by Jade Arnold. He struts, he prances, he twists and capers, he flits here and there, he is boisterous and unruly and loud and quiet, he brings us a Mozart deftly alive and fully aware of his own genius. In short, Arnold is wonderful. His gesticulations while riffing on Salieri’s little tune are so pompous and humbling to the poor man that we almost are ashamed to laugh, and yet we laugh with gusto.
Molly Forlines is positively adorable as Constanze Weber, who becomes Mozart’s wife, and the mother of their children. Her arc — from ditzy, flirtatious playmate to one the world’s greatest composers to serious mother of two in dire straits — is managed by Forlines smoothly and realistically.
Count Franz Orsini-Rosenburg is avidly played by Liam O’Neill, from under a billowing frock coat and sitting on what appeared to be a simple chair on wheels, to represent him as short and obese. O’Neill gives us an outstanding performance of a man who is almost a caricature of himself.
Laurie Wolf is excitable and spry as a firefly as Baron Van Swieten. The remainder of the cast members are charming and amusing, filling out their roles with vim and animation. Leviathan Theatre Company has created for us an opera of words.
Costume designer Chelsea Kurtzman and mask designer Wil Deedler are to be applauded for these expansive and colorful visual enhancements. We should also mention that there is a long list of backstage people whose efforts helped bring off this very fine show, and their efforts are duly acknowledged here.
SECOND OPINION: March 26th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-review by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/amadeus/Event?oid=3855813.
Leviathan Theatre Company presents AMADEUS at 8 p.m. April 3-5, 2 p.m. April 6, and 8 p.m. April 9-12 at Common Ground Theatre, 4815B Hillsborough Rd., Durham, North Carolina 27705.
TICKETS: $16.52 (including fees).
BOX OFFICE: 919-213-1070 or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/537241.
SHOW: http://www.amadeusdurham.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/566518673425009/?source=1.
VIDEO PREVIEW (by Nick Karner): http://vimeo.com/89321174.
Amadeus (1979 West End and 1980 Broadway biographical drama): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amadeus (Wikipedia).
Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: http://www.guthrietheater.org/sites/default/files/amadeus.pdf (Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN).
Sir Peter Shaffer (English dramatist and screenwriter, born 1926): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Shaffer (Wikipedia).
Amadeus (1984 film): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/420318/Amadeus/ (TCM Movie Database), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086879/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amadeus_%28film%29 (Wikipedia).
Jay O’Berski (Durham director): http://theaterstudies.duke.edu/people?Gurl=&Uil=1728&subpage=profile (Duke Theater Studies bio).
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Austrian composer, 1756-91): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfgang_Amadeus_Mozart (Wikipedia).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.