It's 15th anniversary time at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, and they're launching the celebration with a classic more recent than Will's best stuff -- that being Peter Shaffer's Tony-winning 1980 comedy-drama, Amadeus. They've made quite a stylish affair of it with dozens of sumptuous costumes (Heidi Jo Schiemer) glittering on a grand set (Will Turbyne) with multiple white and gilt arches that imply Imperial Vienna as they telescope back toward a textured back wall on which colored lighting effects (Sara Watson) and architectural patterns are projected.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, said by some to be the greatest composer ever, spent the final decade of his brief life in Vienna seeking but failing to find favor and employment in the court of Emperor Joseph II. Mozart, his wife and children were frequently destitute.
Tradition holds that Mozart (Christopher Guthrie) was blocked at every turn by the older, envious court composer, Antonio Salieri (Bruce Cromer), who recognizes young Mozart's genius while describing himself, in Shaffer's words, as a "master of mediocrity." He probably did.
A weaker tradition holds that Salieri murdered Mozart. He probably didn't.
Their conflict, coinciding with the composition of many of Mozart's most sublime works (Marriage of Figaro; Cosí fan tutte; The Magic Flute; Symphony No. 41, “The Jupiter”), is the meat of Shaffer's play -- much of it light and amusing, some of it self-conscious and self-absorbed.
Artistic Director Brian Isaac Phillips has staged a production that's a bit more stylized than the sharply theatrical script. Also he's allowed it to stretch out to nearly three and a half hours and to allow his leading men to rant (Cromer) and to prance (Guthrie) while playing (both of them) on the surfaces of the conflict.
There are ace supporting performances from usual suspects Hayley Clark, Matt Johnson, Jeremy Dubin, Justin McCombs and Josh Stamoolis.
At the end of the l-o-o-o-o-ng night, it's all more Salieri-like than Mozart-ish.
AMADEUS, presented by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, continues through Sept. 28. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.