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Theatre Review (LA): Amadeus by Peter Shaffer at the Chandler Studio Theatre

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Amadeus on the stage of a small Waiver Theatre in Los Angeles? Absolutely, especially when it's in the hands of the multi award-winning Production Company, which wowed us with terrific productions of Sweeney Todd, Twilight of the Golds, and Equus.

This bold company doesn’t shy away from what seems like the impossible to stage in their—well, let’s face it—tiny space. Now they have undertaken Amadeus.

This Amadeus is the first production of the play to hit Los Angeles since the stunning revival with David Suchet and Michael Sheen in his first American appearance. (Full disclosure: I was in that production and had a great experience doing it in Los Angeles and in New York.) The version the Production Company is using is the playwright Peter Shaffer’s latest version. Shaffer has been roundly attacked by the critics throughout his career, despite his many awards. Because of these needless criticisms, he has been known to do his works without permission, and has sometimes revised the plays after each go-round. The version being used for this intimate production is the latest and most clear so far. Shaffer has clarified scenes and relationships, especially the last scene between Mozart and Salieri.

Not everything was totally successful in North Hollywood at the Chandler Studio Theatre, where the play is being performed. All the technical elements, including the modernization of the costumes (otherwise too expensive), worked pretty well. The simple set by August Viverito consisted of simple sliding panels and a painted backdrop. It suited the action. Some of the cast was doubled (cook, Venticelli, and Count Orsini Rosenberg, for instance). This doubling worked okay but did lead to some odd choices for accents. The Constanze was a very strong, if not too strong, Danielle Doyen.

Mozart was assayed by Patrick Stafford, who won several awards for his work as the boy in Equus. He was good and managed to do all those silly laughs that Mozart must deliver, in a connected manner, coming from character and not stage directions.

Peter Swander played Salieri. He had a good voice and phrasing but lacked stature. If he would just stand more erect!

The only character that didn’t work was the Emperor, who is supposed to be addled and thick-headed. The actor here was too animated and focused. He wasn’t stupid enough.

August Viverito also directed, with a sure hand, and kept things moving. Amadeus will be performed at the The Chandler Studio Theatre in an open-run engagement from June 18th. Go judge for yourself.

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About Robert Machray

  • jan

    it’s impossible to see the play, of course, without remembering and comparing it to the movie (or other stage versions, if one has been fortunate enough to see them). And yet, with all the constraints put upon this production by money (or the lack of it), I liked it very much. Oddly, Robert, (and maybe it’s because I’m not an actor, as you are), I entirely reverse a couple of your opinions: the more intelligent Emperor worked for me, but Costanze???? well…..not so much, though I can’t put a finger on what was wrong. I thought Swander wonderful (didn’t notice him not standing erect…) though I did miss the aging that make-up would have lent to assylum Salieri. Stafford…..I should think it’s a difficult thing, indeed, to get the audience’s sympathy for this character, the lewd, crude, rude rock-star of his age. And yet Stafford managed. The one thing I felt was amiss with him was too much giggling in the “I penned this march” scene. It’s an odd thing to sit in the audience and feel yourself going in and out of belief in the space of such a short scene, but….there you are! (and, to pervert another of the Emperor’s lines: there were simply….too many giggles). In a play where I definitely felt, at all times, the actors connection to their characters, that was the only moment(s) where it seemed to me that the connection failed. Not a major point, to be sure. Overall, I thought this a wonderful production, and would recommend it.

  • Couldn’t have been worse than the version put on here in Bozeman. Though I thought it was brilliant and funny. But more than half the cast was gay, including the emperor and Salieri. It was a bit odd (not what I am used to), but enjoyable.