By Peter Shaffer
Theater UCF, Orlando, FL • Directed by Donald Seay
Carl F Gauze
God’s gifts aren’t distributed very evenly. Virtuous non-virtuoso Antonio Salieri hears the most sublime music, yet he can’t write for diddley. Beauty drips from the fingers of vulgar upstart Wolfy Mozart, who can improvise concerti while filing his nails. Oh, the indignity! In that most musical of cities, Vienna, the court of vacuous, tone deaf Joseph II draws the best European composers and musicians. Fame, fortune, or dire poverty are passed out by the whims of court politics, and Wolfy has stepped into the wrong pile. Salieri’s resentment grows along with Mozart’s fame, and he swears to block both God and Mozart at any opportunity. As court composer, Salieri has weapon, motive, and opportunity. Wolfy doesn’t stand a chance. Driven to poverty and madness, Mozart dies far too young, leaving the most magnificent body of work ever composed.
Amadeus represents the most challenging production from Theater UCF this season, with over 30 on-stage actors. The troupe is well up to the task, with the astounding Kareem Bandealy as Salieri presenting a virtual one man show. Never off stage for more than a few minutes at a time, he grabs the story in one hand and the audience in the other, dragging both through his treachery toward Mozart. Mozart (Scott Borish) keeps pace, with his braying laugh and petulant Chico Marx look. Jordan Reeves as Emperor Joseph II provided a suitable straight man for the on stage machinations and a cast of valets spend most of their time adding and removing furniture for the aristocratic classes.
The first act dwells on Salieri’s presumed bargain with God and rise to peak of the musical serving class. In the second act we understand God neither needs to bargain nor is under any obligation to keep His side of it. Mozart’s miserable career peaks with the famous Requiem Mass. He dies valiantly, only to be slid off the back of the stage into an unmarked grave. Grasping vainly for success, Salieri understands how far from greatness he remains. Abandoning God and virtue, Salieri betrays not only Mozart, but art as well.