If you had just one word to describe the powerful, incisive version of “Amadeus” at 2nd Story that might be it. After all, even when you enter the performing space you notice the dim. A couple of lights, a candle or two, and that’s it. Watch your step, and maybe get out those reading glasses if you care to check the program.
You see, 2nd Story’s co-founder, the redoubtable Pat Hegnauer, has never been one to follow a path. Her productions over the years have, more often than not, taken a different trip, a new look. And in “Amadeus” she has gone for . . . well, call it period. During the 18thCentury things were, of course, a lot darker than they are now. And in this version, as Mozart struggles (and often fails) to achieve pubic success at the court of Joseph 2nd, the Holy Roman emperor, Hegnauer shows that very well.
Her leading man, 2nd Story’s other co-founder, Ed Shea, spends nearly the entire production with a lighted candle in his hand. As Antonio Salieri, the most famous musician of his time, he struggles not only to slow the progress of the young, brilliant upstart Mozart, but to argue with God, no less.
And here is another change in this version of “Amadeus.” On Broadway, great actors such as Ian McKellen and John Wood emphasized the interplay between Salieri and Mozart. The view was that Salieri’s first order of business was to keep the brilliant youngster down to insure his own continued success.
But Hegnauer’s production emphazies another war, one between Salieri and, God. Clearly, the musician/composer is struggling to impress God himself. He’s hoping his actions will bring God’s reward and not punishment. It’s a very personal look at a human’s relation with the Almighty and at 2nd Story it works very well indeed.
A lot of that is due to Shea’s convincing performance which masterfully carries several threads. Dressed throughout in dark, threadbare clothes and a dirty old gray beanie, Shea’s eyes flash in turn with desire, with resentment, with anxiety and , most of all, with need. He creates a man for whom there’s never enough, never real success. God help him.
And most of the others, too. Andrew Iacovelli makes Mozart into a little guy with big hopes and a dizzy personality. Whether its fart jokes, enjoying being spanked by his wife, or just plain being an obstreperous little jerk, Iacovelli is a hoot.
So is John Michael Richardson as Joseph 2nd. Foppish and entitled, vividly goofy but more sharp than you might think, Richardson’s Emperor brings light to this dark work. As Mozart’s wife, Valerie Westgate, is long-suffering, funny and sharp.
The rest of the large cast is on the ball, too. Ron Cesario’s super costumes run from tattered to giddy. (Oh, those golden shoes on His Majesty.)
But in the end, it is director Hegnauer’s take, fresh and with feeling, that makes
“Amadeus” at 2nd Story a different view, and a show not too miss.
Want to Go?
“Amadeus” continues at 2nd Story Theatre in Warren through February 17th.
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