Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Peter Shaffer's 1979 drama of ambition thwarted and fulfilledand a God who grants musical genius to the vulgar Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Samuel Adams) while withholding it from the devout Salierimust be epic, operatic in its scope. In this production, some of Salieri's machinations become one thing they should never be: tedious.
Peakes' performance is vividly theatrical throughout, beginning as a feeble elderly man before stepping back into his days in the court of Austrian Emperor Joseph II (John Taylor Phillips). He's crafty and manipulative, true, but also truly anguished and awed by the miraculous music being produced by Mozartwhen he isn't chasing his future wife Constanze (Lilli Hokama, fun-loving on the surface but steely when she needs to be) or offhandedly insulting everyone around him.
Samuel Adams embodies both the purity of Mozart's musical gift and the crude obliviousness of his personality, also showcased through Mariah Anzaldo Hale's gaudiest costumes and Dori Beau Seigneur's cotton-candy-colored wigs. Hokama is a skillful foil to Adams, and Phillips amuses as the clueless emperor who sums up everything with "Well, there it is."
Tony Cisek's scenic design emphasizes that the action is all taking place in Salieri's head and through his eyes, framed with large abstract set pieces of wood strung with cord to suggest pieces of a broken harp. Max Doolittle's lighting design is self-evidently nonrealistic, and Sharath Patel's sound design envelops the audience as well as the actors.