Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Truth to tell, before seeing the show, my experience with Amadeus was mostly from the Oscar-winning film version, which I saw decades ago. Still, the play is so compelling, that, even going in rather fresh and unfamiliar with the plot, I was soon swept up in the story and the eventual battle between the two main characters. Set in Vienna in the late 1800s, Amadeus is told from the point of view of Antonio Salieri, a court composer of rather average talent, who becomes insanely jealous of young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who is able to write beautiful music and operas almost without trying.
Downtown Cabaret Theatre is fortunate to have found two sterling performers to take on the lead roles. Geoffrey Gilbert is a rather wily Salieri, who slowly becomes more and more devious as the play goes on, as he enacts his revenge on the unknowing Mozart. Picture a rattlesnake waiting to strike and you can get a good sense of how this actor takes on this part, eventually making his character's obsession an almost tangible thing onstage.
Chris Kozlowski has been a real live wire in two previous Downtown Cabaret Theatre shows, The Great Gatsby and Hairspray, and his work here as playing Mozart is just as striking. Kozlowski is able to bring out the humor and mischievous nature that Mozart represents, as well the character's relative immaturity. Dressed in the most stunning costumes, as designed by the expert Jessica Camarero, this actor brings a real spark to his scenes and one can almost understand Salieri becoming so envious of Mozart and his seemingly effortless talent.
Even though the focus throughout is acutely on these two men, the supporting company does quite well, too. Brian Crook excels as Count Orsini-Rosenberg, and he is nicely matched by Andrea Pane as Emperor Joseph and Scott Spector as Count Johann von Strack. Perry Liu is chillingly good as Baron Gottfried van Swieten and Anna Fagan gives a heartrending performance as Constanze, Mozart's wife.
The physical production of Amadeus is terrific, with a stylish set designed by William Stark and almost cunningly conceived lighting design by Phill Hill. Since music plays such a huge part in the show, credit must also go to music supervisor Clay Zambo and to the crystal clear sound design by Chris Gensur.
Director Lance Gray has done a great job of staging Amadeus and is also to be commended for eliciting magnificent performances from Geoffrey Gilbert and Chris Kozlowski. It is no exaggeration to say that it becomes a life and death battle between Salieri and Mozart and one hangs on every word of Peter Shaffer's play. It is highly recommended that you get to the Downtown Cabaret Theatre to experience this spellbinding production for yourself.
Amadeus continues performances at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport, CT through February 19, 2017. For tickets, please visit www.dtcab.com or call the box office at 203-576-1636.