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- As Salieri, Gero is an intense and brooding presence who curses God, but is moved to tears by the beauty of music. (Photo: Danisha Crosby/Round House Theatre | Date: May. 10, 2011)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a musical genius and a child prodigy, but also, according to Amadeus at the Round House Theatre, a spanking enthusiast, braggart, and a toilet-mouth. If the word had existed in the 18th century, one might call him a douchebag. Instead, Antonio Salieri, the Austrian royal composer, calls him "The Creature," with snarling disdain.
In this fictionalized history of the relationship between Salieri and his contemporary, Mozart, – you might also know it from the 1984 Best Picture film adapted from the play – playwright Peter Shaffer makes frenemies of the two composers, who wage a jealous war. But the fight is rigged against Mozart (Sasha Olinick), whom Salieri (Edward Gero) wants to destroy: He recognizes in the young composer a supreme talent, but cannot believe God has gifted it to a total boor. Now, on his deathbed, Salieri confesses his sins – of ruining Mozart's life and leaving him to die, penniless – though he hardly seems sorry.
Gero's Salieri is quite a sympathetic villain. As easily as he can be moved to suggest ruinous career moves to the gullible Mozart, he can be brought to his knees by the beauty of music. His battle between God and his inner demons is fought in a soaring, cathedral-like set by James Kronzer. And while Mozart is undoubtedly a jerk, Olinick portrays him as childish and naive, with a brashness that comes from his insecurities, not overconfidence. He never fails to make the court wince (i.e., when told that he should choose more elevated subjects for his operas, he replies "The only thing a man should elevate is his doodle.") But Mozart blurts out notes and words with a zeal for life – cut short, indirectly by a man he believed to be his friend, but immortalized in his music.