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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 16, 2003

Disturbed characters drive play

By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Advertiser Drama Critic

 •  'Amy's View'

Who: A Readers Theatre production

When: 2 p.m. Sunday and May 25

Where: Richardson Theatre, Fort Shafter

Cost: $6

Information: 438-4480

"Amy's View," by David Hare, is built on a muddled mother-daughter relationship, and given its show-business background, might be a better counterpoint to Army Community Theatre's next production of "Gypsy" than to its current offering of "The Music Man."

The ACT Readers Theatre series, directed by Vanita Rae Smith, runs in tandem with its main stage productions and offers a taste of plays that don't get an outing with local theater groups and a preview of some that do. The special flavor of Readers Theatre, however, allows great liberties with casting and stimulates greater use of audience imagination.

A prime example in this production is Richard Pellett's reading of an aged grandmother and Jo Pruden's reading the title role of a woman of 23, who ages 12 years during the course of the play. The approach succeeds in a reading when it wouldn't be considered for a staged production.

Despite the play's title, the character of Amy is only a supporting role and the personal battleground between two much stronger personalities. As Amy sees the world, everything would work out for the best if everyone simply loved each other unconditionally.

The two people closest to her — her actress mother and her television producer boyfriend — not only fail to share that philosophy, they simply can't abide each other's presence. The play chronicles the mother's decline and the boyfriend's success, with Amy as the soft center against which the other characters poke and press.

Esme Allen (read with prickly relish by Sylvia Hormann-Alper) is the grande dame of all stage mothers, lamenting "there are no more roles for women," and reduced to performing commercial voice-overs: "I played a germ."

Esme immediately dislikes Amy's boyfriend Dominic, and takes it upon herself to announce Amy's pregnancy before her daughter has a chance to tell him.

Dominic (Michael Hanuna) is a self-centered product of the television age. According to Esme, he's someone who "never goes anywhere that he has to turn off his mobile (phone), or sit still or shut up."

The battle lines are drawn early and clearly, and neither adversary relents as long as Amy is available to absorb their verbal blows. Over the years, Dominic becomes wealthy and increasingly self-absorbed. Esme's finances implode due to bad advice from a worshipping boyfriend and she takes refuge in her stage work.

The mother-daughter relationship remains untidy, with both Esme and Amy unable to change. "In any relationship, you get cast in a role." Amy devotes herself to trying unsuccessfully to please, while Esme makes an art of pleasing without seeming to try.

The young people accuse Esme of refusing to grow up and living in a dream where principles turn out to be more like prejudices. Esme counters by refusing to deal with what others call real life and by living only in her stage appearances.

"Amy's View" asks more questions than it answers, but stimulates considerable thought through three disturbing, grandstanding characters.