As noted in last week’s preview of the County Players’ new stage production of Amadeus, currently running in Wappingers Falls, it will always be a good time for a revival of Peter Shaffer’s Tony Award-winning 1979 drama, so long as nearly all of us have more in common with Salieri than with Mozart – which is to say, forever.
Each of us has our talents, and with a little luck and a lot of diligence, will meet at least a few people in our lifetimes who will appreciate them. But once in a great while, along comes a born genius who blows us all out of the water. When said genius is also a vacuous fool or an amoral wastrel whose behavior does not merit the level of rewards that his or her singular gift ensures, we mere mortals may be forgiven for sympathizing with Antonio Salieri’s fantasies of vengeance, or at least poetic justice.
That’s why the obsessively envious Salieri, and not his titular bête noire with the hideously annoying laugh and the peerless compositional brilliance, is the protagonist of Amadeus. Shaffer got it right: The mediocre human is audiences’ way into understanding this story. And that’s also why casting the part of Salieri is key to a successful production of the play.
Right now, the National Theater of London is experimenting with a casting choice that inevitably introduces a novel racial dynamic to the rivalry between the two composers: Lucian Msamati, who was born in London of Tanzanian parents and raised in Zimbabwe, where he co-founded the acclaimed Over the Edge Theatre Company in 1994. American audiences will recognize Msamati’s face mainly from his recurring appearances as the pirate Salladhor Saan in HBO’s Game of Thrones, but he also bears the distinction of being the first black actor ever cast as Iago in Othello by the Royal Shakespeare Company. That interesting choice must have worked, because now he’s wowing the British critics with his “altogether splendid,” “superb,” “excellent” turn as Salieri for the National.
Also distinguishing this new production is the decision to put a full orchestra onstage, the Southbank Sinfonia. Not since Miloš Forman’s 1984 film version of Amadeus have audiences been thus able to experience the palpable sense of being surrounded, elevated and pummeled by Mozart’s sublime music as does his rival.
Luckily for us on this side of the Pond, Amadeus is being simulcast live from the National Theater of London on Saturday, February 18 and Sunday, February 26 at Time and Space, Ltd. (TSL) in Hudson, both days at 1 p.m. Tickets cost $20 general admission, $18 for TSL members and $15 for students. TSL is located at 434 Columbia Street in Hudson; for more info, call (518) 822-8100 or visit http://timeandspace.org.
Rebroadcasts of the National Theater of London’s Amadeus will be also coming to Upstate Films in Rhinebeck on Wednesday, March 15 and to the Rosendale Theatre on Sunday, March 26. Visit http://upstatefilms.org and www.rosendaletheatre.org for screening times and ticket prices.