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BoHo Theatre’s ‘Amadeus’ revival divinely inspired

Chris Ballou (foreground) stars as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Steve O’Connell portrays Salieri BoHo Theatre’s producti“Amadeus.” | HANDOUT PHOTO

Chris Ballou (foreground) stars as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Steve O’Connell portrays Salieri in BoHo Theatre’s production of “Amadeus.” | HANDOUT PHOTO

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‘AMADEUS’

Highly Recommended

When: Through March 16

Where: BoHo Theatre at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont

Tickets : $25

Info: (773) 327-5252; BoHoTheatre.com

Run time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, with one intermission

Updated: April 14, 2014 4:37PM



‘Amadeus.” The title of British playwright Peter Shaffer’s ever-fascinating meditation on genius and envy, now in an astonishingly fine revival by BoHo Theatre, captures the very essence of the story.

Yes, it is Antonio Salieri, the skillful Italian-bred composer who served the Habsburg monarchy in the late 18th century, who gets to spin the tale of his own pathological envy. But it is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Salieri’s younger contemporary, and a man clearly touched by a spark of divine fire, whose name and music will reign supreme. It is Amadeus whose immortality is unquestioned.

Of course Salieri was smart enough to understand this from the moment the childlike wonder arrived on the scene. The tragedy is that not only did the comprehension of his own “mediocre” talent wreak havoc in Salieri, but it drove him to continually undermine and ultimately destroy the man he believed was touched by God.

As someone who still remembers the 1980 Broadway production of this play — the way Ian McKellen, as Salieri, licentiously licked pastry cream out of the sweets he adored, and Tim Curry, as Mozart, traded baby talk with his mistress/wife, Constanze — I hold fast to the highest expectations for any revival. They are being more than met by director Peter Marston Sullivan’s inspired and insightful production in the intimate confines of a Stage 773 space. Steve O’Connell’s bravura turn as Salieri, Chris Ballou’s heartbreaking portrayal of Mozart, Amanda Jane Long’s spicy, nuanced turn as Constanze, and a most stylish supporting cast make for a riveting take on a play that possesses its own touch of genius, even if it is more speculative than fact-based.

O’Connell not only captures his character’s hypocritical, priggish, self-lacerating, compulsively destructive nature but also lets his mania build gradually to a high pitch before festering in eternal damnation. Ballou’s mood swings, his wonderfully agitated fingers and his crystal clear bursts of eloquence make you believe Mozart is truly the vessel through which music pours, and that its notation on paper is just a form of stenography. And Long (who, like Ballou, made a powerful impression in BoHo’s “Veronica’s Room” last year) very cannily shows the growth of a sexy girl into a mature woman.

David Tibble, Scott Danielson, Sean Thomas and Russell Alan Rowe display just the right degree of wit and a blindness to brilliance as the powers that be at court. Patrick Ham’s handsome set and Theresa Ham’s lavish costumes ideally capture the time and place.

“My name shall live forever,” proclaims Salieri. “If not in fame, then in infamy.” True. But “Amadeus” will sing the final note.

Email: hweiss@suntimes.com

Twitter: @HedyWeissCritic



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