In some ways, Villa Terrace was an ideal venue for this show. The period styling of the Italianate villa’s main room gave a naturally historic setting for the action of the play. On the other hand, some aspects were very IM-perfect. Villa Terrace was not in any way designed as a performance space, so such seating as there was, was three rows of plain wooden folding chairs crammed together along one side, which we found rather uncomfortable, and we were both sore afterwards. Also, the public parts of the building have exactly one, single, washroom, which is probably adequate for museum days, but I forwent having a glass of water at intermission--.
Facilities issues aside, we enjoyed the performance very much. Mack Heath, in the role of Salieri, got mixed reviews from local papers, but we thought he did a fine job with a very long and difficult part. (The stage version of “Amadeus” is essentially one long monologue by Salieri, punctuated with short scenes by the other actors.) I think part of the reviewer’s issue with Mr. Heath may essentially have been that he is not F. Murray Abraham, who, as the film Salieri, owns the role in the popular imagination. Mr. Heath does not have Abraham’s buttery voice or naturally confiding manner, and so, it takes time to warm up to his version of Salieri, which, given the composer’s rather difficult character, is as it should be.
Jared McDaris was, frankly, the best Mozart we have seen. He acted the foolish and flighty Mozart very well, but really shone in the moments of passion when Wolfgang held forth on music and his art, things that he was sure of with laser-cut precision. The power of his outbursts to the supposedly sympathetic Salieri at the unfairness of his treatment, and his arguments with his wife, Constanze (Gretchen Makorn) could be physically felt in the room without being uncontrolled shouting.
There were strong supporting performances by Mark Puchinski as Count von Strack; Nathan Weslowski as Count Orsini-Rosenberg; Greg Ryan as Baron Van Swieten; and Juilianne Frey, who exhibited a decent operatic singing voice as Katherina Cavalieri, Salieri’s student and eventual mistress. The cast was augmented by Hayley Cotton, Tawnie Thompson, and Danielle Levings as “the Venticelli,” or “little winds”, Salieri’s gossip sources and Greek chorus.
Michael Keiley had evident fun in the role of Emperor Joseph II, exhibiting excellent comic timing and delivery and making the Emperor quite a bit funnier than he is usually played.
Staging made good use of the museum’s available furniture, and costuming and makeup were adequate given the shoestring nature of the production. The only serious objection I had was that someone should have tackled Mr. Keiley and made him wear a wig, as his long, loose hair made him more resemble Charles II of England before breakfast than the rather uptight Emperor.
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