‘Amadeus’ shortchanged by its lack of depth

Peter Shaffer’s “Amadeus” forces us to ask some tough questions of ourselves. How would we react if we were in the presence of budding genius? What if this person were a much younger colleague, and vain, and coarse, and about to make us look second-rate in the eyes of others?

That’s the emotional crisis facing one Antonio Salieri (Steve Rapella) when he meets Wofgang Amadeus Mozart (Griffon Stanton-Ameisen), and you don’t have to be a musician to feel his pain. Salieri bitterly calls himself “the patron saint of mediocrites,” and he’s one of us — well, most of us anyway. We can understand his anger at God for elevating a silly, immature man with unstoppable talent.

The Nevada Conservatory Theatre’s production of the 1998 revised version of the script gets at the core of this disturbing tale. Director Robert Brewer’s take is elegant, fluid and full of visual flourishes. The set (by John Iacovelli), lights (Happy Robey) and costumes (Jessica Culpepper) make late 18th century Vienna a breathtaking place to be. And there are a couple of performances that get under the skin of complicated characters.

The evening is shortchanged, though, by a lack of depth. On one hand, it’s quite entertaining to watch the ever-present Rapella demonstrate his technical virtuosity as an actor. The guy knows how to energize dialogue. But you never feel Rapella go beyond technical gimmickry to genuine, emotional connection. His overstated accent is vaudevillian Eastern Orthodox Jew, and his physical and verbal reactions don’t seem to have anything to do with his heart.

Stanton-Ameisen as Mozart is vocally strained and one-note. Brewer doesn’t make these two characters interesting enough to sustain a second act, and I suspect that’s because not enough probing was done to find out what makes these men tick. Too early you reach a point where there’s nothing new to discover about the play’s people.

Savannah Smith-Thomas, however, throws herself into the role of Mozart’s wife with ease, charm and dramatic power.

Brian Hinson walks away with the show with his pompous, kind, eccentric and likable comic portrayal of Austrian Emperor Joseph II. When Hinson complains that Mozart’s work has “too many notes,” the actor convinces us the character really believes his nonsense. Hinson carries himself with the gait of a man who gained authority before he gained sense.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

Life Videos
MAGIC fashion convention showcases men's clothing trends
The MAGIC fashion convention has come to Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to showcase some of the hottest clothing trends for men. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Army medic’s Afghanistan story told in new book
The graphic novel “Machete Squad” is based on journals written by Las Vegan Brent Dulak.
Las Vegas man talks about losing his wife
Dwayne Murray, 37, lost his wife, LaQuinta while she was at Centennial Hills Hospital. A jury awarded him $43 million last week after it said the hospital failed to perform the standard of care in administering a drug for her sickle cell disease.
Barber sets up shop in grandfather’s old shop
Andres Dominguez’s new barber shop is filled with memories of his grandfather, who ran the El Cortez landmark for more than 30 years. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Life and times of a 90-year-old horse player
Leo Polito of Las Vegas describes meeting legendary jockey and trainer Johnny Longden on the beach at Del Mar. Mike Brunker/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Learning the history of singing bowls
Presentation at Summerlin Library teaches residents about the history of singing bowls (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learning live-saving techniques in Stop the Bleed class
Leslie Shaffer, an AMR paramedic, shows how to control bleeding during a Stop the Bleed course at the Summerlin Library. The class is designed to teach anyone how to control and stop life-threatening bleeding. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vicki Richardson speaks about on the power of art
Artist and arts advocate Vicki Richardson talks about the power of art to inspire and challenge. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DressCoders pairs tech with haute couture
DressCoders is a startup focused on haute couture garments. The company uses illuminated thread that is washable and can be sewn right into the fabric. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Brava infrared oven
In cooking with the Brava infrared oven,there’s no preheating. the bulbs can reach 500 degrees in less than a second. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sinks Merge Style And Utility
Study could determine cause of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases
Dr. Aaron Ritter, director of clinical trials at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, discusses his research on how inflammation in the brain impacts Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holocaust survivors talk about tragedy and friendship
Janos Strauss and Alexander Kuechel share their perspectives on life. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Home Front Page Footer Listing