June 19, 2010

Our Patron Saint

75.jpgPeter Shaffer's "Amadeus" is one of those Important Plays, works of art full of giddy genius, reckless jealousy, and the hard hard questions of life. Warehouse Theatre delivers a scintillating production, brimming with all of those things: storms and light, gaiety and ruin, and laughter! But there's also something else in there, something harder to stomach. A truly unsettling stroke of mediocrity.

Of course, it's much more fun to start with the genius. Mozart. Matt Creacy's composer is shockingly effervescent--he's exudes so much joie de vivre and juvenile delight that I found myself surprised to actually believe him. But, oh, did I ever believe and love him. Creacy is infectious and inspiring (even to someone inclined to discount the more, ahem, scatological shades of his humor). His love Constanze is equally buoyant--Tara Sweeney charms much more with her giddy, silly jokes than she does with her later (overwrought?) grief.

So this Mozart of the potty mouth enters the royal court in Vienna. It is a most gossipy, backstabbing city, as exquisitely portrayed by the Venticelli. Jared Johnson and Matt Reece deliver a hilariously stylized duo that commands any scene it enters. It's a good thing it never actually enters the court with Joseph II. Chris White's Emperor of Austria is not a man to be upstaged. White gives a delightful performance as the "benevolent" (and ultimately ignorant) head of state. The rest of the court is appropriately stodgy, especially Kelly Ward's deliciously mute wife-of-Salieri.

And Salieri. Salieri. Here is where we get hard to stomach. Salieri, as written by Shaffer, is larger than life. He's the villain to beat all villains--Vienna's musical man of the hour plots to ruin Mozart. He's big and full of raging thunder against God. Just not as played by Paul Savas. Savas opens the show with an alarmingly normal, chummy man. To be frank, I was affronted. I came to see a sneaky old man. I came to see thunder. I demand to see thunder. Which of course, should tell you that Savas (and director David Sims) understand something far more important about the script.

By resolutely denying Salieri's inherent melodrama, Savas creates a villain that is disconcertingly familiar. I found myself begging for more fireworks--not because fireworks are fun, but because this Salieri was too very like me, and I wanted an out. Give me a pompous, overwrought mediocrity. Let me say "tsk tsk tsk!" and leave it at that. Don't--don't--sit in my seat. Which is, of course, exactly what the self-proclaimed patron saint of mediocrity should do. Be normal.

Do not misunderstand. Savas does hit Salieri's breaking points beautifully. He just refuses to cave in to that alluring tug of melodrama, and I commend him for that, even though it stings. Especially because it stings.

Posted by stephanie at June 19, 2010 11:38 AM | TrackBack