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Theater Review: ‘Amadeus' a SecondStory Rep triumph

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SecondStory Repertory have outdone themselves this outing with their fully realized production of Amadeus by Peter Shaffer. It’s a rather enormous piece, both in scope and story and time (clocking in at over 2 ½ hours), and takes a charismatic cast that makes you want to watch them.

A bit on the “talky” side, the play is a platform for the composer Salieri, who was a contemporary of Mozart, and who confesses to the audience (the “ghosts of the future”) that he was responsible for Mozart’s downfall and ultimately his death.

But what Salieri (Gerald B. Browning) talks about most is the pain he suffers from knowing he is just mediocre and Mozart is a genius, and that God, Himself, is to blame for both giving him only mediocre skills and also allowing him to know that he has mediocre skills. So, Salieri rails at God and rejects Him, and while he undermines Mozart at every turn, still expects that God will visit His wrath upon Salieri.

Mozart is played as almost an idiot savant in this production, a gullible fool who doesn’t watch his mouth, alienates people with money to support his art, and yet, can’t help but produce heavenly music. Brandon Ryan inhabits this role with glee, especially in the beginning, when Mozart is in his prime. Later, his decline is outrageous, but outrageously moving. We know he died young, and watching it, knowing how much beautiful music he would never live to create, is a tragic experience.

Salieri tells us of his jealousy, plainly, and his attempts to bring ruin to Mozart, yet a lot of the negative events in Mozart’s life could also have been coincidental or been brought on by Mozart’s own flaws. So, it’s not necessary to believe that Salieri actually had that much control over Mozart’s lack of success during his life.

Director Corey McDaniel harnesses this sprawling play and keeps it in its traces, with the right amount of tensions on stage, not allowing any of the characters to become too silly or overblown. The large cast (and a solid one giving great support) inhabits the court surrounding these characters.

Besides the two main characters, Mozart’s wife, Costanze (Brittany Cox), is another major character who has to stand by his side and manage her penurious circumstances. Cox shows a nice range from young girl to even the humiliation of a proposition from Salieri to gain his favor. A minor character, Katherina, is played by Meagan Castillo, who demonstrated a lovely operatic singing voice.

The set by Mark Chenovick was elegant and simple and the costumes by Janessa Jayne Styck were sumptuous and versatile. Technical support for the production was crisp, and the overall effect was of a transportive production. It certainly makes the case for trekking out to Redmond to see what they cook up next.