By Peter Shaffer
Directed by Peter Marston Sullivan
Produced by Boho Theatre
At Stage 773, Chicago
Rivetingly intense historical drama underscores jealousy and highlights mediocrity.
Director Peter Marston Sullivan has created the proper passionate tone to highlight Peter Shaffer’s fictional account of Antonio Salieri’s relationship with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The result is Amadeus, a rivetingly emotional gem.
Anchored by the in depth and glib work of Steve O’ Connell as Antonio Saleri and Chris Ballou as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Amadeus brings us into the fascinating world of Mozart as he strives for fortune and fame in Vienna at the court of Hapsburg Austrian Emperor Joseph II (David Tibble) in the late 1780’s.
Amedeus is told in flashback as court composer Antiono Saleri, a dying old man in 1826, rants on about ‘killing Mozart’ in 1791. Salieri narrates this memory play from his time as a young man , age sixteen, when he made a pact with God to serve Him by creating music. As hard as he tried, Salieri realized that he was a mediocre composer—at best. Once he met and heard Mozart’s music, he realized that God had betrayed him by making Mozart the true genius composer. Adding to Salieri’s torture was the fact that he alone—a composer—realized early Mozart’s talent. Salieri’s obsessive jealousy forced him to both war with God and subtly destroy Mozart as a man and composer. Salieri hated Mozart as an “unmannered fool” and as an uncouth immature slob. Steve O’ Connell delivers several heartfelt monologues speaking to the nature of jealousy, the creative process, and the nature of envy as well as the relationship of man toward God. O’ Connell gives a superb performance capturing the conflicting emotions and self-realizations of a vain man. He wears his guilt effectively through his telling facial expressions and body language. Steve O ‘Connell gives his finest theatrical performance to date as Solieri.
Chris Ballou, who looks remarkably like images of the actual Mozart, played Mozart’s contradictory personality expertly. We see Amadeus as a crude, sexual guy, as an arrogant artist and as a trusting soul dedicated to the creation of divinely inspired music. Chris Ballou’s intensity, his charm, and mischievousness, together with his obsession to compose music made his Mozart a most compelling character. Ballou, in act two, presents Amadeus coming apart from sickness and despair. While Mozart looked for beauty in his music, his vulgar, infantile and boastful behavior aided Salieri in his bitter maneuvering toward Mozart’s downfall.
The self-realization for Salieri that while he gained fame but , in reality, is only a mediocre composer haunted him for most of his life. He realizes that the worst sin is to be average—that the world is ruled by mediocre folks. And that he was doomed to be forgotten as mediocrity tends to be.
This powerful production featured period perfect 18th Century costumes and wigs (designed by Theresa Ham) on Patrick Ham’s vivid set.
Peter Shaffer’s philosophical and psychological enriched script with terrific ensemble work and the truthful performances by Chris Ballou and Steve O “Connell rendered Boho Theatre’s Amadeus as a special theatrical event not to be missed!
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: February 20, 2014
For more info checkout the Amadeus page at theatreinchicago.com
At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, call 773-327-5252, www.bohotheatre.com, tickets $25, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays ay 2 pm, running time 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through March 16, 2014