Twice is nice?

Competition? What competition? It's just two viewpoints on the same play, the directors say.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Youngstown area boasts quite a few choices for live theater, so it is not unusual for more than one company to schedule the same show during a season, at least a big-name musical such as "The Sound of Music," "Annie" or "Oklahoma." But when two theater groups choose to do a show that's less well known, and both schedule their productions of it at nearly the same time, it seems like more than just a coincidence.
And yet, both the Youngstown Playhouse and the Stage Left Players have, unbeknown to each other, scheduled productions of the Peter Shaffer drama "Amadeus" for this month.
The Playhouse's production opened Friday evening and will run through next weekend, while Stage Left's rendition opens April 19 for its two-weekend run.
According to Robert Vargo, managing director of the Youngstown Playhouse, he made the choice to do "Amadeus," a piece about a rivalry between composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri, because it had recently been revived on Broadway. He also stated that he tries "to choose shows that meet two criteria: 'Do people want to see it?' and 'Do people want to be in it?'"
Vargo is assisting in this production in a new program for mentoring young directors. In this case, Keith Maguire is directing the play, which stars Chris Kambouris as Mozart and Thomas Gilmartin Jr. as Salieri. It features a cast of 22 and uses orchestral recordings of Mozart's music.
Amy-Anne Kibler, director of Stage Left's production, said she first became aware that the Playhouse was doing the show when she was conducting auditions. "Someone came in and said 'Hey, did you know the Playhouse is doing this, too?'" she said. "Of course, we're not in competition with the Playhouse," she added.
Vargo too, stated that he sees no problem with both troupes performing the same show. "The area is more than large enough to accommodate both productions," he said.
Stage Left staging: Stage Left's production will feature 14 in its cast, said Kibler, with Geoff Barnes portraying Mozart and Eric Kibler in the role of Salieri.
She also said that their play-reading committee chose this play at the suggestion of one of the members and because "it's a timeless story and a good stretch for our actors." Since their performances take place in a former Presbyterian Church, they plan to make use of the church's pipe organ.
"Jodine Pilmer will be doing a 15-minute concert before each performance," she said.
Kibler also is working on the possibility of having some guest vocalists as well, but details on that have not been worked out.
Pilmer also will be performing some of the play's music on a synthesizer. Since this is a "memory play," told through the eyes of Salieri, Kibler said that Pilmer will be playing themes from Mozart's compositions as a part of Salieri's reminiscences.
Story line: The plot of "Amadeus" is similar to the 1984 Oscar-winning film and concerns itself with an intense rivalry between Salieri and Mozart. Salieri is a talented musician but lacks the unquestionable genius of Mozart, a fact that he is acutely aware of and that haunts him. He feels betrayed by God in that he has led a much more devout life than the rambunctious, irreverent Mozart, and yet God has bestowed upon Mozart a musical talent that eclipses virtually all of his contemporaries.
His jealousy leads him to denounce God and set about hastening the demise of Mozart. While there is virtually no historical evidence of such intrigue, Shaffer's drama deals more with feelings about art and talent, according to Kibler.
Review: Gilmartin gave a thoroughly compelling performance as Salieri, a part which required his presence onstage for very nearly the entire performance. His manner and inflection were superb as he spilled forth the venom of his deep envy of Mozart and ultimate rejection of God.
Kambouris also was perfectly cast as the gifted genius Mozart, portraying his prodigious talents and infuriating childishness excellently.
Of special note were the both amusing and wonderfully timed performances of John R. Thompson and Jonathan Emerson as "The Venticelli," informers and gossips to Salieri.
Katie Libecco was captivating as Constanze, Mozart's wife, and Nicole Stuckey was also in fine form as Katherina Cavalieri, a vocal student of Salieri.
Turning in a very good performance was Alan McCreary as Emperor Joseph with an perfectly timed running comment in most all of his scenes.
Well-played supporting roles were given by Judith M. Kellar, Robert D. Shipley Jr., Josh Daffron, Gary Deckant, Henry M. Diamond, Tom Hathhorn, Ed McAtee, Steve Mohr, Samantha Eichenlaub, Barb Malizia and Lynn Marie Mohr.
One point, however: The choice of modern music both before the performance and during the intermission was completely out of touch with the theme of this drama and broke the fluidity of the evening. There is no shortage of Mozart's compositions and surely they would better serve the prelude and intermission.

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