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Theater review: 'Amadeus' at Chandler Studio Theatre

July 2, 2010 |  2:00 pm

300.THE DEATH OF MOZART Following last year's pitch-perfect chamber edition of "Equus," The Production Company takes on playwright Peter Shaffer's "Amadeus." Although purists may faint, director-designer August Viverito's nervy revision of this Tony and Oscar winner is riveting.

Viverito casts devout mediocrity Antonio Salieri (the impressive Peter Swander) considerably younger than the mature tours-de-force associated with Broadway's Ian McKellen and Hollywood's F. Murray Abraham. The tactic intensifies Shaffer's metaphysical argument, rooted in Salieri's rivalry with vulgar genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (the memorable Patrick Stafford). 

Swander's bravura technique sometimes trumps subtlety in the tiny venue, but his sardonic aplomb ignites against Stafford, whose absolute investment creates the most affecting Mozart yet encountered.

Moreover, by staging "Amadeus" in modern dress (wittily realized by costumer Shon LeBlanc), Viverito gleans unexpected relevance to these "American Idol"-ridden times.  Most ancillary roles are gone, the sole woman onstage being Mozart's beloved Constanze, played by Danielle Doyen with a sly appeal that recalls the young Kim Cattrall. Dan Alemshah, Barry Saltzman and David Stifel make brashly seriocomic court officials, while David Robert May's droll Emperor Joseph II is not the usual jovial dolt but an archly aware poseur.

The austere décor, including Viverito's set of sliding screens, high-backed chair and clavier laden with Salieri's sweets, may trouble those who equate the property with visual riches. Yet it certainly keeps the focus on Shaffer's ingenious text. Bob Blackburn's sound design gets in the essential musical quotes, and Viverito's noir-tinted lighting has uncommon precocity. That sums up this audaciously bracing interpretation.

– David C. Nichols

"Amadeus," Chandler Studio Theatre Center, 12443 Chandler Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends July 31. $25. (800) 838-3006 or Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes.

Photo: Danielle Doyen and Patrick Stafford with Peter Swander in the background. Courtesy of the Production Company.