AMADEUS by Peter Shaffer, directed by Morris Panych, with David Storch, Matthew Edison, Damien Atkins, Dov Mickelson, Shauna Black, Neil Foster and Robert Persichini. Presented by CanStage at the Bluma Appel (27 Front East). Runs to November 1, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday 1:30 pm, Saturday 2 pm. $20-$75, limited Monday pwyc and same-day half-price rush. 416-368-3110. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Reviving a hit play from the past few decades is always fascinating. Was its popularity a zeitgeist fluke, a lucky combination of fashion, timing and commerce? How well does the play command the stage now? Will it become a classic? CanStage and director Morris Panych present a solid argument for Peter Shaffer 's award-winning 1979 play Amadeus , even if the script occasionally feels creaky in the joints.
In telling Shaffer's memory play about court composer Antonio Salieri's ( David Storch ) Machiavellian manipulation of the life and career of W.A. Mozart ( Matthew Edison ), Panych makes some curious choices, big and small.
Having 11-year-old pianist Ariel Kwan play a truncated version of Mozart's Rondo Alla Turco on a white piano is cute but - at the beginning of a long night of theatre - a waste of time and pointless. It's hardly a virtuoso piece, as anyone who's studied piano will tell you.
On the other hand, Panych's use of hollow audience claps - sometimes seen through a chink in Ken MacDonald 's spare, elegant set, sometimes simply heard - as a motif to comment on art, fame and immortality is effective. Here's a theatrical way of linking many of the work's biggest themes.
There's a lot of stage business, and Panych knows how to move actors efficiently. With one exception ( Shauna Black is stiff as Mozart's wife), the casting works.
Storch delivers a Dora Award-worthy turn as the melodramatic, pained lesser composer who looks as if he could choke on his own hatred. If he loses our interest briefly in the opening monologue, chalk it up to Shaffer's penchant for telling and not showing.
Edison offers a complex portrait of a man merely glimpsed in the script. With voice pitched high and his limbs constantly moving (it works dramatically that the tall Edison almost towers over Storch's Salieri), his Mozart is a touching comic creation, whiny and petulant yet believable.
The most surprising choice? Edison dispenses with the giggle and instead offers a wide-mouthed silent laugh that's bold (the giggle's written into the script) yet works theatrically.