Sunday, February 29, 2004

Amy's View (Dobama)

High quality acting in Dobama's ‘AMY’S VIEW’

It is somewhat ironic that the weekend before the vote on whether Cuyahoga County should fund the arts that Dobama Theatre opened ‘AMY’S VIEW.’ Much of the play is about the value of theatre, cultural changes, and the role and purpose of the arts.

‘AMY’S VIEW’ follows a mother-daughter relationship over a sixteen year period from 1979 to 1995. As is the general pattern with Hare’s writing, the play is built around what he calls, a “fragrant” woman. In this case, it’s Amy, who believes that “you have to give love unconditionally and that one day it will be rewarded.”

The play’s first half mainly revolves around the conflict between the assertive Esme, Amy’s mother, and Dominic, Amy’s future husband. When we meet them in 1979, she is a well-known stage actress, he a young nobody who despises the theatre as "irrelevant" and has impregnated Amy. Come 1985, Dominic is a big media success, while Esme is on the slide playing germs in ads for disinfectants. The play then jumps to the 1990s. Dominic is achieving world fame by making “action” movies and Esme is hugely in debt due to misguided investments and has succumbed to playing a doughty nurse in a TV soap. Without revealing the “startling incident” which changes the course of the play, Hare has Esme losing pretty well everything, but somehow ending up the gainer.

The play is well-crafted, but the ending is too contrived, unsatisfying. And, as often is the case with Hare, the male characters are too clearly the “bad” guys. Whether you agree with Dominic’s point of view or not, it is obvious from his first outburst that he is going to be the heavy in this story. In a sea of positive reviews regarding Judi Denche’s magnificent performance, one London critic stated of the play, “He’s a peculiar case is David Hare. Always, even in his best work, there are patches where you feel you’re having your ear bent by someone still compelled to score points in the manner of some cocky little snit and a voice inside you wants to scream, more at the dramatist than at the character speaking, “Oh, for God’s sake grow-up!” Another stated, “somewhere during a quarrel between Amy and Esme about the meaning of “talking control” of one’s life, it must be wondered if the play was getting too unfocused, too scattered.

Dobama’s production is well-directed by Sonya Robbins. It is well-acted by most of the cast, three of whom are former Times Theatre Tribute winners for their performance abilities.

Catherine Albers as Esme gives her usual flawless performance. Though there are times when Hare doesn’t give her a clear set of motivations, she invents them and develops a clear characterization.

Derdriu Ring, who always lights up a stage, glows brightly as Amy. The character’s goodness and anguish are both evidently clear.

Todd Krispinsky is given the difficult task of being Hare’s whipping boy. He does it well, though his last act transition was not well textured. Part of this is the script’s fault as Dominic isn’t given much character variance in the lines. The lack of makeup and wardrobe adjustments also didn’t assist Krispinsky.

Robert Hawkes gives a clear and consistent interpretation to the nebbish-like Frank, Esme’s next door neighbor, suitor and financial adviser. But as was the case with the character of Dominic, Hare didn’t give Frank the same dimensions as the female characters.

Tom Weaver is appealing as a neophyte actor. Only Ursula Korneitchouk fails to develop a real being as Evelyn, Esme’s aging mother-in-law. Her lines have a flat, memorized sound.

Michael Louis Grube’s aesthetically pleasing set design works well, except during a set change in which the back wall folds in order to allow it to fade backstage. For an instance it appeared that it was going to annihilate Evelyn, who is sitting in a wheel chair in front of the wall.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘AMY’S VIEW’ gets a wonderful production at Dobama. In fact, the production qualities outshine the problematic script.