“Let right be done!” See “THE WINSLOW BOY” at ICTC, powerful as Shaw and funny as Wilde.

by Peter Hall April 22, 2017, 12:02 pm

THE BASICS: THE WINSLOW BOY, a 1946 play by Terence Rattigan, presented by the Irish Classical Theatre Company, skillfully directed by Brian Cavanagh, starring Robert Rutland, Kate LoConti, Pamela Rose Mangus, Matt Witten, Kevin Craig, Ben Michael Moran, Todd Benzin, Lisa Ludwig, introducing Gianna Palermo, and Collan Zimmerman as “the boy” opened April 21 and runs through May 14, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 3 & 7:30, Sundays at 2, at 625 Main Street (the Andrews Theatre). (853-ICTC) www.irishclassicaltheatre.com Cozy full bar, snacks, coffee. Run time 2 hours 45 minutes with one 10-minute intermission.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH: A masterful blend of drama with laugh lines, underneath it all THE WINSLOW BOY is a romantic comedy. Set in England before WWI (think “Downton Abbey”) we meet somewhat rigid patriarch Arthur Winslow toasting his suffragette daughter Catherine’s engagement to John Watherstone (son of a prominent military man) when he learns that the Osborne Naval College (a Royal Naval Academy under the aegis of “The Admiralty”) has expelled his 14-year-old son, Ronnie, for stealing a five-shilling postal order. Coming around to the lad’s innocence, Arthur Winslow stakes his modest family’s fortunes (he is a retired banker, not a lord), his personal health, his older son’s Oxford connections, familial peace, and Catherine’s marriage prospects to pursue justice. Under English law, Admiralty decisions, even involving petty theft, were official acts of the government, which could not be sued without the attorney general responding to a petition of “Let right be done.” And so the family engages Sir Robert Morton, a famous barrister and Member of Parliament. This is not a courtroom drama, although we do follow the case. All of the action takes place on a single set in the Winslow family home which is appropriate since the play really is character driven, with some of Buffalo’s best actors portraying those characters.

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Opening night had all the energy one expects and none of the problems that occasionally occur. Everyone was delightfully well rehearsed. Thank you Brian Cavanagh and Irish Classical! My only complaint is that the audience was too reticent to laugh, at least early on. Come on, people! The characters on stage are stiff upper lip, God and Crown, veddy veddy “we don’t laugh, we’re British” but you’re not. The laugh lines by Terence Rattigan are hilarious. Let yourself go.

It was a fine triangle of superb theatrical skill, and the other characters rose to that level.

The performances are first order in this penultimate play of the ICTC season. (Next up, by the way, is HAY FEVER by Noel Coward where you really must be ready to laugh.) Robert Rutland as Arthur Winslow, the father, is a commanding force on the stage who ages and reveals more and more of his character most convincingly. Kate LoConti is always “in the moment” in the difficult role (difficult in real life too) of being a modern woman in a traditional family. And Matt Witten, with his big boomy voice was excellent as Sir Robert Morton, the barrister. It was a fine triangle of superb theatrical skill, and the other characters rose to that level. Personally, I loved seeing Ben Michael Moran again as a clueless English twit (he was marvelous in AN IDEAL HUSBAND). Mr. Moran should guard against type casting, he is so good in these roles. And Kevin Craig has the insouciant ne’er-do-well, but ne’er-do-much-else-either pampered Oxford student down to a tee. Lisa Ludwig deserves a special mention for taking what might seem to be a small role (the maid, Violet) and recognizing it for what it really is.

Amanda Sharpe was the dialect coach for this production, and while I can’t speak to the accuracy of the accents (we’ll leave that to Professor Henry Higgins) I can tell you that they were believable and utterly consistent throughout the evening, which is no small accomplishment, especially in moments of great emotional distress. Well done.

While this performance runs almost three hours, this skillfully crafted play keeps your attention and affection for every minute. Playwright Terence Rattigan has learned many things from George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde and has reinvented them for our time.
Photo: Gene Witkowski

RATING: 4-1/2 BUFFALOS (out of 5)
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

ICTC’s “The Winslow Boy” lives up to its classic status – Colin Dabkowski, The Buffalo News

3-1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The sound of desperation crackles in the background of Terence Rattigan’s 1946 play “The Winslow Boy,” which opened April 21 in the Irish Classical Theatre Company’s Andrews Theatre.

On the surface, the play chronicles a family’s fight to reclaim its honor in the wake of a wrongful accusation. Beneath that veneer, it tells a broader story about the struggle to maintain order in a world descending into chaos.

Set in London in the years before World War I, Rattigan’s play is based on the true story of George Archer-Shee, a young naval cadet expelled from college for stealing a five-shilling postal order. In the real-life version as in Rattigan’s reimagining, the cadet’s family throws its full weight behind his defense, recruiting Britain’s top lawyer and exhausting their emotional and financial resources in the process.

Though it is not part of the story, it should not be lost on audiences that Archer-Shee died at 19 years old in the First Battle of Ypres in 1914 — and likely would have met the same fate whether he was guilty or not.

None of that seems to have been lost on director Brian Cavanagh, whose handsome and well-cast production emphasizes the play’s baked-in sense of dread about the war while maintaining a light dusting of humor, a comfortable pace and even a few flickers of romance.

Archer-Shee in Rattigan’s version becomes the slightly older Ronnie Winslow (Collan Zimmerman), who arrives on a rainy afternoon at his family’s modest home in west London to break the news.

It goes over poorly with everyone, not least Ronnie’s disconcertingly imperious father Arthur (Robert Rutland). Nonetheless, all are convinced of his innocence, and immediately launch a campaign to prove it. Against that backdrop, a secondary storyline involving the independent-minded Winslow daughter Catherine (Kate LoConti) and her fiancé John (Ben Michael Moran) unfolds.

Instrumental in that fight is the participation of Sir Robert Morton (Matt Witten), a barrister of supreme arrogance and opposition member of Parliament based on Sir Edward Carson. With his help, the case rises to national prominence and the outcome eventually pleases all.

To contemporary ears, the plot of Rattigan’s play hardly sounds compelling. Who should care about such a petty theft by such an inconsequential figure? The characters make that point themselves often enough to make audiences wonder whether there isn’t something bigger at stake.

Rattigan, who wrote the play after two devastating world wars had claimed countless Ronnie Winslows, clearly believes there is: the rule of law and individual liberty.

If all of this sounds impossibly academic, it is a testament both to Rattigan’s clever script and to these performers that it rarely seems that way onstage.

As Arthur Winslow, who conducts himself as a military officer who learned fatherly affection from a manual, Rutland gives a marvelous, idiosyncratic performance. Witten’s rendering of Sir Robert Morton stops itself two centimeters shy of over-the-top, which is just right.

LoConti, as Catherine, delivers Rattigan’s version of “The New Woman” with confidence, attitude and grace. She is especially affecting in a touching scene with Todd Benzin, who plays a family solicitor with an incurable crush on Catherine.

As the wayward Winslow brother Dickie, Kevin Craig is irresistibly funny. No one in this cast seems more at more in his character’s skin or on this stage. (One can imagine him being just as comfortable, say, at the Shaw Festival.) And fine turns come also from Lisa Ludwig as the Winslow family housekeeper, Pamela Rose Mangus as Winslow matriarch Grace, Ben Michael Moran as the cartoonishly gallant John.

As always, Tom Makar’s deceptively unobtrusive sound design both pushes the action along and hints at the rumblings of dread that underlie the play. Dyan Burlingame’s set, in concert with Cavanagh’s lighting design and Dixon Reynolds’ ruddy costumes, complete the picture with period-perfect touches.

Also true to the period, however, there are some touches of sexism that future productions would do well do avoid or at least reposition. They include the female reporter Miss Barnes (Gianna Palermo), who arrives to do a piece on the Winslow affair but becomes idiotically distracted by the curtains. The romantic sparks forming between Catherine and Morton need a better explanation than Morton’s apparently irresistible charm, since Catherine is a committed suffragette and Morton opposes her right to vote.

View these drawbacks as vestiges of the times, and it’s easy to see “The Winslow Boy” becomes a compelling piece of history, a story about the bonds of family and a warning about what we stand to lose should another global conflict arise.

email: cdabkowski@buffnews.com
Theater Review
3.5 stars (out of four)

“Kelly and Kelley … create fireworks” – Colin Dabkowski, The Buffalo News

In Irish Classical’s ‘Seedbed,’ a dangerous idea grows in a claustrophobic setting
by Colin Dabkowski, The Buffalo News

If you were thinking about retirement, take a look at the Irish Classical Theatre Company’s production of “The Seedbed.”
You might reconsider.

Bryan Delaney’s strange and solemn four-hander, which opened March 11 in the Andrews Theatre in a production directed by Greg Natale, is in part a study in the psychological effects of too much spare time. It is also a poetic exploration of three family members’ inexorable journeys away from one another and toward the terrifying unknown.

The Dublin-born Delaney, whose play “The Cobbler” received its world premiere from the Irish Classical 2005, has carefully constructed his own alluring, imagistic style from the grand traditions of Irish drama. His avowed influences include Abbey Theater stalwarts J.M. Synge and Sean O’Casey, but his work also contains also dark echoes of the claustrophobic settings and twisted characters of Martin McDonagh and Conor McPherson.

“The Seedbed,” with a funereal set by Paul Bostaph, gloomy lighting by Brian Cavanagh and a subtly unsettling sound design by Tom Makar, may as well be set in an actual bog. It opens with a strangely cheery exchange between Thomas (Chris Kelly) and his wife Hannah (Kirsten Tripp Kelley) that is so totally at odds with the play’s subterranean visual mood that we quickly realize it is a façade.
“We’re really good, aren’t we?” Hannah asks her husband with characteristic quiet desperation, as Thomas prattles on about his grand plans for a trip to Paris or Venice.

They are not good. As it turns out.

In fact, as a visit from their 18-year-old daughter Maggie (Arianne Davidow) and her newly acquired fiancé Mick (Eric Rawski) soon demonstrates, they are about as far from good as a semi-nuclear family can be. Maggie is Hannah’s biological daughter from a different father, but she and Thomas have raised her as their own.

These conditions have allowed for a certain idea to be born in Hannah’s head about the nature of Thomas’ affections for Maggie. (Strangely enough, the same setup drives the action of “A View From the Bridge,” now running in the Kavinoky Theatre.)
Whether that idea has any basis in reality will remain murky in this review, but suffice it to say that this dangerous notion undergoes a series of florid mutations in the mind of each character. The result is a wild psychological ride which demonstrates the power of the human imagination to shape reality and turn its darkest impulses into darker deeds.

As for imagination, Delaney has plenty to spare. He based the play on three abstract images: a house overgrown with plants, a castle caretaker carrying a birdcage and an overheard argument between a woman and her husband. The power of those seemingly disparate ideas suffuses the play, which flutters with avian imagery and poetry about the growth of gardens mirrored by the over-watered psychological fantasies in which its characters engage.

Delaney’s writing shines particularly well in Thomas’ dialogue. In one terrifying scene, Thomas acts out an insane pantomime involving a cup of sour milk and a cookie as everyone else — audience included — looks on with amusement, then dismay, then horror.
“My husband has a slightly lunatic side,” Hannah remarks as she tries to explain his behavior to Mick, an Englishman twice Maggie’s age. But Mick has his own shade of lunacy, and Hannah her own. The only one who seems to have it slightly together is Maggie, and she becomes the play’s hero — the one we root for to escape.

Rawski’s character is not exactly a cipher, but his presence feels too often mandated by the structural demands of the well-made play rather than organically emerging from the situation at hand. He acts as some sort of unhinged psychological version of Sherlock Holmes, picking his way, Cumberbatch-like, across the perilous mental landscape of characters who have been marinating far too long in their own miseries.
While the gloom and claustrophobia of the play can sometimes seem a bit too much to bear, the dynamic central performances of Kelly and Kelley — two of Buffalo’s very finest actors — make it all but impossible to lose attention. On their own, each of them delivers an astoundingly sensitive performance. Together, they create fireworks. Kelly, particularly, in his manic and tragicomic portrayal of a man brought to the edge of his sanity, is riveting.

Davidow also shines as Maggie, the picture of teenage optimism and naïveté sure to meet its match in the disappointment and pessimism of her older caretakers.

There’s plenty of pessimism and disappointment in “The Seedbed.” Like many great Irish dramas, Delaney’s play considers the push and pull of home, the pitfalls of staying too long in the nest and the difficulty of leaving at all. Its answer to this eternal question isn’t pretty, but it will certainly leave a mark.

email: cdabkowski@buffnews.com
Theater Review

“… potent, relevant, well acted” – Mike Keenan, “What Travel Writers Say”

Irish Playwright Bryan Delaney’s Western New York premiere, The Seedbed, suggests imagery that reflects growth – whether it’s fragrant flowers cultivated by Mick, a florist from Amsterdam, or – malignant familial thoughts and desires amidst a troubled triangle – father, mother and daughter in “a house in Ireland,” actually any home in any land.

This compelling drama might equally be called The Elephant in the Room, which seems appropriate now that U.S. politics appears illogical to the rest of the world. The elephant might be Thomas, the steadfast father, portrayed powerfully by Chris Kelly, who cultivates a slow burn with volcanic explosions throughout the play. Or it might be his wife, Hannah, played stoically and convincingly by Kristen Trip Kelley, her red hair burning as brightly as her mounting fear and anxiety, which sparks trouble for all. Or it might be the 18-year-old daughter Maggie, her raw sexual allure and angry acting out captured wonderfully by Arianne Davidow. Finally, it might be young Maggie’s bizarre choice for a mate, middle-aged Mick, the florist, handled adeptly by Eric Rawski whose penchant for honesty causes the family irreparable damage. That’s four elephants if you are counting, in fact a veritable herd.

Buffalo’s Irish Classical Theatre Company is a Western New York gem whose Artistic Director, Vincent O’Neil and Producing Director, Fortunato Pezzimenti regularly stage potent, relevant and well-acted plays in their Andrews Theatre, located directly across Main Street from Shea’s Performing Arts Center in the heart of Buffalo’s Theatre District.

This marks the fourth production of the Season, and Bryan Delaney is already known to Buffalo audiences for his successful play The Cobbler, given its World Premiere by the Irish Classical Theatre Company.

The action begins to broil with the wayward daughter suddenly returning home from Amsterdam to reveal her fiancé, middle-aged Mick, his initial appearance drawing an immediate chuckle from the audience, knowing things will surely get complicated with this incongruous pairing. Coincidentally, Thomas and Hannah uneasily celebrate their 17th wedding anniversary. Their union uneasy with her multiple miscarriages and he, the stepfather, taking on a close relationship with the feral daughter.

The set is spectacularly sparse, and Hannah’s opening anniversary gift to Thomas, two caged sparrows, primes one for the secluded set at the end, a dingy shed filled with a mattress and sexual innuendo suggesting lurid behaviour, and three large bird cages, only one of the four of them, it seems, able to escape from the domestic coop.

On YouTube, prior to the play, I watched Bryan Delaney quote Nigerian poet and novelist Ben Okri – “A people are as healthy and confident as the stories they tell themselves…Sick storytellers can make nations sick – Stories can conquer fear. They can make the heart larger.” He also quotes Hamlet – “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

This effectively sums up both the play and contemporary America. The Irish family feud is a bitter struggle between fake news and truth, polarizing the players into absolutist factions unable and unwilling to unite. How prescient of O’Neil and Pezzimenti to stage Delaney’s dark drama now.

Delaney says about the play, “It’s a battleground that takes place over about four days.” He suggests that on the surface, it’s a battle of wills, but deeper down (in the familial seedbed), it’s about how a nasty thought takes root in one’s mind to manifest as a strange mutation, spreading like cancer from one damaged person to the next.

Honest, reliable, down-to-earth, Mick, the affable florist, able to methodically and encyclopedically rhyme off multiple floral names to scold, arouse, amuse and even tease Maggie as they imbibe wine on a couch, acts as our seeing-eye dog, sniffing out the truth from the other three.

The factual explanation of his chance meeting with Maggie and their “midnight swim” in one of Amsterdam’s many canals, sets off bells and whistles in Thomas’s 911 fire station brain and leads to the scorching denouement at the end. Familial body language says it all – Hannah’s abject frozenness, Thomas’s gradually accepting arms and Maggie’s conniving, coiling fingers. It’s enough to make one run out and catch another play by Tennessee Williams or Edward Albee.

“… intense and riveting …” nytheatreguide.com review, The Seedbed

by Cherie Messore
Posted March 13, 2017

Playwright Bryan Delaney’s latest play onstage at Irish Classical Theatre Company has a curious title. By definition, a seedbed is that fine layer of topsoil where seeds germinate. Translate this into a theatre metaphor and it sparks images of growth, a harbinger of spring, or coming of age. Something far less innocent is taking root in this seedbed, perhaps rooted in Freud’s assertions about children and their innate rivalry with their same-sex parent.

As we meet 17-years-married couple Thomas and Hannah, they’re affectionate and sweet as they talk about their upcoming anniversary, heightened by the anticipation of their daughter Maggie’s visit to their Irish country cottage after six months in Holland. She’ll have a friend in tow, a man named Mick, and if Hannah seems anxious about this meeting, your first impression of her is that she’s as flighty as one of Thomas’ pet sparrows. But she’s not: she’s a strong Irish woman determined to protect her daughter and rebuild her troubled marriage. When Maggie arrives, she leaves Mick to cool his heels in the van while she greets her parents. Their words are warm, but their interactions and body language tell another story. And when Mick finally enters, we meet a middle-aged man who is solid and sincere, and very much in love with 18-year-old Maggie. And not at all what her parents expected.

Here’s where troubles begin to sprout. Though Thomas is not Maggie’s biological dad, he’s been in her life since she was a baby. “I don’t even remember the other one,” Maggie says, in what should be a poignant moment. What emerges is a complicated family saga, a classic drama with some witty moments exchanged between three deeply flawed characters and one good guy trying to see his way through a morass of family subterfuge.
Kristen Tripp Kelley plays the complicated Hannah winningly. Her performance is perfectly layered with a mother’s conviction to nurture her only child and a wife’s passion for her husband, even when she has her doubts. Chris Kelly as Thomas has some of the most challenging moments of the production. His dinner table monologue starts out with whimsy but snowballs into a complicated commentary on the state of this family. Watch his gestures carefully: every move is perfectly nuanced and evocative.

Arianne Davidow is charming as Maggie. She’s determined to shed Maggie’s wild-child past: her struggle to move on is palpable. As Mick, Maggie’s older-than-dad boyfriend, Eric Rawski shows an unfailing depth of character. Yes, a burly guy can own a florist shop, be charmed by a teenager who he sees as a woman, until his dark side flares ever so briefly.

For as strong as the story and the characters are, the subtleties make this production extra special. The sparse set perfectly conveys the Irish cottage setting. The chirping of the birds – and the volume that rises and falls with the intensity of the dialogue – adds the right touch. There are moments of silence, too, that say more than words. Hannah’s dishing up of trifle at the dinner table is most telling. Greg Natale’s expert direction puts this all in the proper balance.

‘The Seedbed’ is intense and riveting. There are adult themes and language planted in a powerful message of what is and isn’t love. And what is imagined and what is real. Or is it?

A Curtain Up New Jersey Review… The Seedbed

The Seedbed… a humdinger of a play … a hotbed of uncomfortable truths, uncovered secrets and unforeseeable consequences, all waiting to surface … Delaney’s characters are complicated and compelling in their emotional diversity … a welcome addition to contemporary Irish dramatic literature.” – Simon Saltzman, Curtain Up New Jersey

Read the full review … 


Theatre Review: “Amadeus” by Mary Best

The marriage of songs and drama is often celebrated when presented as a musical production, but what about the role of music in a play?
Peter Shaffer’s “Amadeus,” the sensationalized story of one man’s feud with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, lends itself well to the idea on paper. However, it’s the magic of the JoAnn Falletta-led Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra that takes Irish Classical Theatre Company’s production of the play to an unforgettable level.
Make a point to escape to Kleinhans this weekend for a truly rich and unique theatrical experience. 
Friday night marked the debut of this collaboration, with scenes of the play diluted and supplemented with expertly chosen selections from Mozart’s repertoire. Vincent O’Neill, portraying composer Antonio Salieri, guides the audience as narrator and main antagonist. He begins the program confessing to poisoning Mozart but promises to explain himself. As we learn of Salieri’s many attempts to sabotage Mozart’s talents after discovering his lack of grace and charm, we also experience Salieri’s awe at Mozart’s flawless compositions.
The best synergy of drama and music occurs when Salieri describes singular moments of each piece as he hears it for the first time. As he mentions hearing the woodwinds, the orchestra follows, inviting the audience beyond the fourth wall on the journey with Salieri.
The production, directed by Fortunato Pezzimenti, is a perfect fit for O’Neill. His commanding voice demands your attention and despite his questionable motives, sympathy, as he struggles to understand why God rewards Mozart with musical genius and not him. He also brings humor, even breaking the fourth wall to interact with Falletta when appropriate, to a character that could easily remain one-dimensional.
PJ Tighe as Mozart is indeed the standout performance of the night. From his electric energy and laughs to the tragic turn of the second act, his range seems boundless and he flows from one emotional end of the spectrum to the other as smoothy as one of Mozart’s piano concertos.
In the role of Constanze Weber, Mozart’s wife, Kathleen Macari shines during the bold, carefree moments of her stage time but triples in power when things become tougher in Mozart’s life and her spirit is tested.
Rounding out the talented cast is Anthony Alcocer, Ray Boucher, Elliot Fox, David Lundy and Doug Weyand, all of whom shine in their roles, filling the ample space and acoustics of Kleinhans. Members of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, directed by Adam Luebke, also contributed to the performance, specifically soloists Kevin Cosbey, Daniel Johnson, Timothy Lane and Sarabeth Matteson.
Rich details on a minimal set designed by David Dwyer and vibrant colorful costumes by Dixon Reynolds complement the format of the production, making it just as pleasing to look at as it is to listen to.
There’s only two chances left to catch “Amadeus,” so make a point to escape to Kleinhans this weekend for a truly rich and unique theatrical experience.
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes including a 10 minute intermission
“Amadeus” plays through January 22, 2017 at Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo.

Theatre Review: “Amadeus” by the Irish Classical Theatre Company & the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at Kleinhans
by Mary Best, nytheatreguide.com
Posted January 21, 2017

Joint Venture Makes For Cohesive AMADEUS

Collaboration among Western New York arts groups can only help serve the better good of the community and a happy pairing of Irish Classical Theatre with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is playing out at Kleinhans Music Hall, as both groups present Peter Shaffer’s TONY and Academy Award winning AMADEUS. While integrating live music with theatrical plays may have been commonplace at one time– think Beethoven’s Overture and incidental music to the play EGMONT or Mendelssohn’s interludes to ROMEO AND JULIET, it is a custom that has all but died of extinction in the 20th century. So the novelty of having the full BPO join forces with one of Buffalo’s premier theatre companies is truly a rare theatrical opportunity.

On most accounts, Mr. Shaffer’s comic drama lends itself beautifully to musical accompaniment as the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s career is told through the eyes of his arch nemesis, the Austrian court composer Antonio Salieri. While the factual information regarding the two composers private meetings in reality is slim, Shaffer creates fascinating encounters for the two, often playing up the young Mozart’s immaturity and sense of fun.

Director Fortunato Pezzimenti has placed all forces on the stage, with the acting area in front of the orchestra, and a small chorus placed at the side. This helped fill the vast Kleinhan’s stage somewhat, but often one hoped for more intimacy than lighting effects alone could allow. Veteran actor Vincent O’Neill has the daunting task of portraying the conniving Salieri. O’Neill begins the play as an elderly man looking back at his career. Through posture and subtle voice changes O’Neill successfully morphs from elderly to a young man, sinking his teeth into the meaty role. Long declamatory passages by Salieri help the audience to understand the complexities of the young Mozart’s composition as Salieri deconstructs a Mozart serenade. One wished for slightly better timing between the O’Neill and the music, as the script is quite specific in it’s descriptive language of the score. Mr. O’Neill’s brings the appropriate sense of awe, as well as jealousy towards the innovative young Mozart, helping to understand Salieri’s inner desire to prevent Mozart from out shining his own compositions.

Mozart is played by PJ Tighe, who essentially is called upon to be a buffoon idiot savant. Mozart’s childish playfulness is in stark contrast to his brilliancy in composing. We learn that entire operas were already written in his head- he merely needed to take the time to write them out. Tighe shone with boundless energy and an infectious giggle in the early scenes, as if the young Mozart was a sufferer of ADHD, always moving, bowing, and making off color noises. His frenzied conducting of the overture to THE ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO, clad in a pink wig, made it clear that no one had seen the likes of this composer before. As the play unfolds the brilliant Mozart is not fully accepted into the musical community and becomes destitute. Here is where the BPO forces are at their best at serving the drama, underscoring his physical and mental breakdown with segments of the the dark ominous DON GIOVANNI overture and the REQUIEM mass. Tighe’s unraveling and ultimate death scene is poignant and highly nuanced, without being melodramatic. Dying in the arms of his wife Constanze, ably played by Kathleen Macari, one ponders how such a genius could have lived out his final years penniless and buried in a paupers grave.

The talented cast was rounded out with David Lundy as Emperor Joseph II, whose bluntly honest opinion regarding the length of the Mozart operas and suggestion to cut some of the notes may be equally shared by opera goers today. His 3-4 hours operas often are taxing to many, despite their beauty. Elliot Fox as Count Orsini-Rosenberg and Doug Weyand as Baron Gottfried Van Swieten were great foils to the young Mozart. The small chorus made up of some of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus members helped add pathos to the drama, but their solo voices in the operatic arias were not up to the caliber of talent surrounding them on stage. Costume Designer Dixon Reynolds has produced elaborately detailed period costumes to complement the drama.
After the play’s conclusion, Maestro JoAnn Falletta smartly chose to play the final movement of Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony, allowing the audience to sit back and bask in the majesty of his music. Contemplating all that had been visually played out and thankful for the abundance of music he produced in his short life, this year the BPO allows us to celebrate Mozart’s birthday weekend with the added benefit of the theatrical gem that is AMADEUS.

AMADEUS runs from January 20 through 22, 2017 as a collaboration with Irish Classical Theatre and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at Kleinhans Music Hall. For tickets and information, call 885-5000.

Joint Venture Makes For Cohesive AMADEUS by Michael Rabice, broadwayworld.com
Posted January 21, 2017

Theatre Review: “Amadeus” by Manya Fabiniak

Theatre Review: ‘Amadeus’ by Irish Classical Theatre Company & Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at Kleinhans Music Hall
Manya Fabiniak

Collaborations often provide an opportunity to create a whole better than its parts, with each member amplifying the gifts of the other. But when those involved possess the stellar talents of the Irish Classical Theatre Company and the JoAnn Falletta led Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and the script of a Tony award play and an Academy award film, the end result can only be breathtakingly memorable! In the magnificent expansive space of Kleinhans Music Hall, all provided an opportunity to experience the many layers that form “Amadeus”, layers that would not be so discernable in a smaller theatrical setting without a full orchestra.

Directed by Fortunato Pezzimenti, the play is simply one of revenge against that incomprehensible Divine incandescence that flows seemingly effortlessly through one singular human being out of all the rest. PJ Tighe, as the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is the innocent receiver of this blessing. Vincent O’Neill as composer Antonio Salieri, swiftly transforms into the vindictive, envious man of hate in the presence of it. He can only observe Mozart’s Divine genius…he cannot possess it. And what he cannot posses…he chooses to destroy.

And what an enchanting Mozart PJ Tighe provides! Energetic, joy-filled, unabashedly vulgar and ever spontaneous, he flutters through scenes with contrasting bursts of elegant intellectual brilliance and childlike effervescence. In stark contrast to Salieri’s assertively mannered, contrived, sterile artificiality, we see Mozart as one who is truly ALIVE!

Vincent O’Neill’s performance as Salieri exudes all the authority of one who assumes he is not simply brilliant beyond words, but entitled to be so. He assumes his relationship with his god should be his proof. As the play progresses, we hear the orchestra exquisitely prove to him and us that his assumptions are not only mistaken, but painfully delusional. O’Neill allows his character to be tenderly, reverently in awe of the transcendent dream of K 361, while we listen, with all hearts agreeing. Then jealousy reforms him, and he moves with a hateful spine.

And this continues throughout the play, for not only is Salieri’s mind flooded with fragments of sublime score after score, thus deepening his rage, but the expanse of the Hall is as well. With Mozart’s music fully alive in every cell of our bodies, we easily understand the magnitude of Salieri’s pain, as well as his wrath. While great beauty can raise us to spiritual heights yet unknown, it simultaneously exposes all that is unlike itself. Salieri allows the golden ring of joy filled appreciation to slip off his fingers, and leave him a barren bitter man.

The high moment of the eve where collaboration’s power was extremely triumphant occurred was when Solieri declares God his enemy…as O’Neill releases his wrath against God’s betrayal and takes justice into his own hands, the orchestra and magnificent chorus sounds the glory of the Kyrie from K417. Kyrie Eleison…Lord have mercy…thunders again and again through our arteries, stirring our life force while releasing its poignant power. Mozart’s cry for compassion becomes Salieri’s call for destruction.

As the impoverished Mozart later swoons to his death in the arms of his beloved Costanze, played both sweetly and with womanly strength by Kathleen Marcari, he dies unaware of the magnitude of his legacy, or the triumph of his immortality. Behind him, the very musicians and instruments that would make Mozart immortal…they now play for us the soul expanding 4th movement of the Symphony No. 41, “Jupiter”…and divine justice smiles upon one and all.

The supporting cast of Anthony Alcocer, Ray Boucher, Elliot Fox, David Lundy and Doug Weyand, all lent their charm and impeccable wit, sending smiles throughout the Hall. Members of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, directed by Adam Luebke, also contributed to the performance, specifically soloists Kevin Cosbey, Daniel Johnson, Timothy Lane and Sarabeth Matteson.

AMADEUS by Peter will be presented for two more performances only: Saturday, January 21 at 8PM; and Sunday, January 22 at 2:30PM. All performances will take place at Kleinhans Music Hall. For ticket information contact BPO.org.

Don’t miss our special three-show performance of “Amadeus”

AmadeusRecommended by Visit Buffalo Niagara as a must see show in January, don’t miss out on Irish Classical Theatre’s production of Amadeus at Kleinhans Music Hall. Three performances only—January 20, 21, and 22. Get your tickets today! For more recommendations on shows to see in January, click here.

Single tickets to Amadeus are on sale exclusively by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Box Office. Purchase in person at Kleinhans Music Hall, by phone at 885-5000, or click this link for the Buffalo Philharmonic Box Office.