Peter Shaffer’s fictional interpretation of the rivalry between Mozart and Salieri has been seen a number of times in Rhode Island, but never quite like the one now showing at 2nd Story Theatre.
Under the able direction of Pat Hegnauer, “Amadeus” comes alive. Hegnauer has had a long and successful theatrical relationship with Ed Shea, and the two together make a powerful team.
Shea has taken the role of the aging conspirator and made it his own. He tells us the story of his jealousy towards the young, talented but crude Mozart, baring his soul when revealing his jealousy and desire to bring him down. He appears center stage in a dimly lit 18th century parlor, brilliantly conceived by Trevor Elliott, holding a candle (approved by the fire marshal) to create a dreamlike atmosphere, as he tells his tale.
Salieri spends his last two hours on earth telling his story, seeking redemption, and blaming God for his misdeeds. There are long soliloquies by Shea brilliantly presented and interrupted by scenes between Salieri and Mozart.
Salieri is the court composer, chosen by Emperor Joseph II. When the Emperor introduces a young Mozart to the court, Salieri is immediately threatened by his brilliance and disgusted by his tasteless language and behavior.
You’ll love to hate Mozart (Andrew Iacovelli), and you can sympathize with Salieri for his actions, pretending to be helping to further the talented composer’s career, while undercutting him at every move. Mozart is so into himself that he doesn’t have a clue to what is going on.
While the play is a bit talky at times, Shea’s tremendous talent carries it to a high level. John Michael Richardson, the talented actor who can draw a laugh by just entering a room, does just that as the foppish Emperor Joseph II. His costume (and all the costumes created by Ron Cesario) is brilliant, and his gestures are priceless.
Mozart’s music is integrated into many of the scenes, adding to the enjoyment of the two-hour production.
In the end, it is Ed Shea who makes this interpretation of “Amadeus” rise above all the others.
“Amadeus” is at 2nd Story Theatre, 28 Market St., Warren, through Feb. 17. Tickets are a most reasonable $25. Call 247-4200 for reservations.