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January 19, 2006

Theatre review: Amadeus

By Charlie McBride

St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church provided an atmospheric setting last week for Kelly Colleen McMahon's production of Amadeus, Peter Shaffer's celebrated play on the life of Mozart and his ill-starred relationship with fellow-composer Antonio Salieri.

Salieri, who has risen to be Imperial court composer, is initially full of admiration for Mozart's prodigious talent. But his admiration turns to envy, then to murderous hatred as he contrasts Mozart's extravagant ingenuity with his own meagre abilities.

Salieri - who narrates much of the story - sets out to destroy Mozart and ultimately succeeds in murdering him. The play is as much about Salieri's downfall as Mozart's. Even before his murder, Mozart is already bedeviled by poverty, having fallen out of fashion with his Viennese audience. Salieri is eaten up by his abiding hatred, a passion that corrodes his soul - though even to the last he continues to recognise Mozart's genius.

While the play was nearly half an hour late in starting, once under way Kelly Colleen McMahon gave us an inventive, fluidly paced, and engaging staging of Shaffer's script. It did suffer somewhat from the church's echoing acoustics which meant that actors' lines weren't always fully audible.

However the production benefited from strong performances by its three principals; Morgan Cooke as Mozart, Helen Gregg as his wife Constanze and, especially, Patrick Curley as Salieri. They were ably supported by Ronan McMahon, Matt Kelly, Shane McDermott, Martin Sullivan, Aileen Bradley, and Lisa Daly as assorted members of the imperial court. Praise is also due to Joan Brennan's costumes. We look forward to Ms. McMahon's next production.