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Theatre Review: Amadeus Strikes a Chord in East Brunswick

Playhouse 22 Stages Celebrated Period Piece
Playhouse 22

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ--There are some remarkable stage works that, for some reason, lose momentum in their film version, such as Joseph Kramm’s The Shrike, William Inge’s Picnic, and Sidney Kingsley’s Dead End.

Regrettably, Peter Shaffer’s fictionalized account of the decline and last days of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart might be among them.

This reviewer, who has followed both equity and non-equity theater for decades, might be incorrect when saying he cannot recall any productions of Amadeus other than the equity one at the New Jersey Shakespeare festival in 2008.

Familiar to the public because of the Oscar-winning film, Amadeus is a potential crowd pleaser. That didn’t mean director John Heron and Playhouse 22 didn’t take an enormous creative risk…they did.

Many in the audience, including this reviewer, had never seen Amadeus as a play.

That meant this staging would have to stand on its own merit.

With lead actor Wayne Harris delivering an outstanding performance as the covetous and conniving Antonio Salieri, and John Heron’s solid direction, it did.

Heron's direction did not only guide Harris, but Michael Drake was very impressive as the elemental, hyper, yet focused doomed prodigy Mozart.

Another enjoyable performance was Elizabeth Stamat as Constanze, Mozart’s put upon wife.  Bob Dumpert, Rupert Ravens, and Howard Fischer all gave standout performances as the Emperor Joseph sycophants.

John Bergeron who played that emperor also gave a notable performance. In addition the solid performances on the stage. Kat Pinner’s costumes had no problem bringing the audience back to Hapsburg-ruled Austria.

The one issue may have been that this reviewer was prejudiced by the opera and the movie.

The Commendatore was difficult to see on the stage and not reminiscent of Don Giovani.

The play runs till March 1, and tickets are available at www.playhouse22.org.