Bobo's phone interview with Jhon Goodwin, director of the Lake City Playhouse production of Amadeus (March 25-April 3), took place on Saturday, March 20. The show will be featured as an Inlander Pick in the Calendar of Events section of the March 25 Inlander.
Goodwin marvels at the “beautiful, almost Shakespearean language” of Peter Shaffer’s 1980 stage drama.
This production will star Eric Paine (Lend Me a Tenor at the Civic) as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. “Tom Hulce played the role in a much more sarcastic vein,” Goodwin says. “Eric has an incredibly sincere take on this role. The love between Mozart and his wife Constanze is emphasized much more in our production, as is his admiration for Salieri.” In this production, Goodwin says, “Mozart is an artistic genius who is simply aware of his genius, as opposed to being arrogant about it. He’s just aware that he is that good.”
In rehearsals, Goodwin has been so impressed by Damon Abdallah’s characterizaion of Salieri “that it’s almost more interesting than the film. Salieri’s conflict within himself, in wanting to be what Mozart is [a genius] and in getting God to allow him that — he has an understanding of Mozart’s talent that other people don’t. But in railing against God, Salieri sees this vile little libertine get what [Salieri] wanted — so he commits himself to God to get this gift.” But what we’ll see in Shaffer’s playscript and Abdallah’s performance, even more than in the 1984 film and its central, Oscar-winning performance by F. Murray Abraham, says Goodwin, is that “there isn’t any nobility or holiness in Salieri’s desire. It’s just very selfish. The audience becomes aware of his underlying motive, and they’ll leave knowing far more about him and about themselves.”
“Over the years, Shaffer has made it clear that his play is not history. He’s aware that there is no historical evidence that Salieri actually poisoned Mozart — these are the ramblings of a deranged man,” Goodwin says. “But Shaffer also makes it clear — and our production, too — that all the historical content doesn’t matter. For our purposes, we live within the world of the text.”
Goodwin also thinks that Paine’s portrayal will depict Mozart as “one of those flawed artists who had their fatal flaws. He was a child artist, of the kind who grew up to have issues — kind of a Lenny Bruce/Picasso/Jimi Hendrix kind of figure. The genius who’s creating the conflict as well as the beauty.” He had a substance abuse problem, says Goodwin: “He drank a lot of wine.”
The “Venticelli” (“little winds”) don’t appear in the movie at all, and they’re intended, in the stage version, to be played by men. Instead, in Goodwin’s Lake City production, two women dressed in white and black (visually distinct from the 10 other cast members) will hang on Salieri’s shoulders, always hovering near him.
“In the original script,” Goodwin says, “Salieri sends them out to get information — they are his spies and advisors. We gave them a questionable reality instead: Are they people, or are they not? We also want them to represent Salieri’s desires and doubts, his paranoia. It’ll be obvious that they’re doting on him.”
Other aspects of the staging will be non-representational and obviously theatrical as well. As Salieri, for example, Abdallah will step in and out of scenes, take the audience into his confidence.
“This is going to be a great showcase for Damon and his abilities.”
As a first-time director, Goodwin has “learned that acting is far less complicated than directing. And I’ve been surprised by how lonely I’ve been while directing [this show]. You’re out there by yourself. I’m a social animal, and I’m used to being up onstage, interacting with other people. But sitting out there and having to watch, it’s not nearly as social.”
And then there are the self-doubts, too. “I keep worrying,” Goodwin says. “Am I putting them in the right places? Are the pictures that I have in my head going to look good when they’re actually onstage?”
Goodwin says his best memory from rehearsal will be of commuting to CdA with Paine and Abdallah. “It’d be 30 minutes in the car with the two of them, riffing on The Simpsons and The Family Guy, going back and forth. I’d have Jerry Lewis on one side of me, and Peter from The Family Guy on the other. I was laughing so hard, I nearly drove off the road.”
Amadeus • Thursdays-Saturdays, March 25-27 and April 1-3, at 7:30 pm; and Sunday, March 28, at 2 pm • Tickets: $16; $13, seniors and military; $10, children and all Thursday night seats • Lake City Playhouse • 1320 E. Garden Ave, Coeur d’Alene • Visit lakecityplayhouse.org • Call: (208) 667-1323
For more theater news, visit inlander.com and click on “Arts & Culture” (theater blog).
[ photo of Amadeus (1984) from flickdirect.com ]