‘Amadeus’ explores the agony and ecstasy of music 

click to enlarge From left,  Ross Neuenfeldt as Mozart, Jerry Lloyd as Salieri and Lauren Rhodes as Mozart’s wife Constanze appear in Hillbarn Theatre’s presentation of “Amadeus.” - COURTESY MIKE AND TRACY PHOTOGRAPHY
  • COURTESY MIKE AND TRACY PHOTOGRAPHY
  • From left, Ross Neuenfeldt as Mozart, Jerry Lloyd as Salieri and Lauren Rhodes as Mozart’s wife Constanze appear in Hillbarn Theatre’s presentation of “Amadeus.”
A panoply of emotions intersect in the creative minds in Peter Shaffer’s “Amadeus,” now at Hillbarn Theatre. The Tony Award-winning play tweaks the true relationship of 18th century court composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri into a dramatic narrative as told from the latter’s point of view.

Initially enamored of the slightly younger composer’s talent, Salieri is confounded by the crude, immature youth he finally meets. Insecure and self-delusional, Salieri rails at God for seeming to squander such gifts on this vulgar peasant instead of on his devoutly Catholic self. He vows revenge through the destruction of Mozart, whose adopted middle name literally means “love of God.”

It’s no spoiler to note that Mozart, who became world renowned, died at 35, interred in a communal grave. Salieri continued to work for decades as both composer and teacher until dementia and ill health ended his life at 75. Still, before this play, he was primarily, if not exclusively, known to classical music fans. It is the possibility of just such an end, in obscurity and mediocrity, which Shaffer’s Salieri frets and struts for his nearly three hours on stage.

Jerry Lloyd delivers a rich and nicely varied performance, making smooth transitions between the character’s younger and older selves. Confused, doubting, afraid, enraged, falsely confident and seemingly lost, his Salieri looks forever outward to measure himself, blaming others for the shortcomings.

Ross Neuenfeldt’s Mozart starts out as an adorable though occasionally annoying puppy, romping through court without regard for form or convention. He whines when he gets his nose smacked and becomes frustratingly and increasingly willful when his court masters would have him heel.

The behavior wears down the patience of his wife, Constanze. Beautifully played by Lauren Rhodes, she moves from spritely playmate to fierce protector before the relationship ends.

Ray D’Ambrosio imbues Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor, with an aristocratic bearing and a strong musical aesthetic without turning him into a mincing queen. It’s an approach that would serve some of the other courtiers well.

The actors are well accoutered by Lisa Claybaugh, Aviva Raskin and Jacquie McCarley. Kuo-Hao Lo’s set is practical, but lacks a sense of operatic flourish. Overall it’s an ambitious production and despite some awkward scene transitions, Leslie Lloyd’s direction builds a solid momentum in Act 1 that falters only slightly in the second half. 

REVIEW

Amadeus

Where: Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 East Hillsdale Blvd., Foster City

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; closes Feb. 8

Tickets: $23 to $42

Contact: (650) 349-6411, www.hillbarntheatre.org

About The Author

Robert Sokol

Robert Sokol

Bio:
Robert Sokol is the editor at BAYSTAGES, the creative director at VIA MEDIA, and a lifelong arts supporter. Diva wrangler, cinefiler, and occasional saloon singer, he has been touching showbiz all his life. (So far no restraining orders have been issued!)... more
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