By Show and Tell
By Bree Davies
By Bree Davies
By Cory Casciato
By Emilie Johnson
By Robin Edwards
By Bree Davis
By Josiah M. Hesse
The protagonist of David Hare's Amy¹s View is Esme Allen, a London stage actress of Widdoes's generation. By the play's opening, Esme's star has dimmed, and she hasn't worked in a few years. Still, she's stylish and witty, accustomed to sweeping into rooms and commanding attention. She believes in the theater as an art form and a purveyor of culture. But Esme's daughter, Amy, has fallen for Dominic, a young man with directly antithetical values. To begin with, Dominic is American -- almost always shorthand for vulgar and corrupt in English drama -- as well as a would-be film director and critic who hates what he considers the elitism of conventional theater. He believes in populist art; the traditions of his adopted country mean nothing to him. What matters is the future.
It's not that Esme and Amy are unaware that the England they love is fading, that villages full of thatched cottages have become sleeper suburbs of an all-encroaching London or that the love of the English for their historic places, Gothic churches and village fetes may represent little more than useless nostalgia. It's that they understand what has been lost.
The fate of traditional art and culture in a fast-paced, visual, hyper-kinetic and hyper-communicative world is one of Hare's themes. But Amy's View is also about the troubled relationship between Esme and Amy -- with a side glance at the evils of capitalism, as exemplified by the corruption of Lloyd's of London, an insurance firm that was once the epitome of solid English business practice.
Esme not only loathes Dominic, but she can see right through him, and she makes a fairly unprincipled attempt to break up his relationship with Amy. It fails, and Dominic turns out to be just as bad for her daughter as Esme had feared. The women never really reconcile, and the ending, in which Dominic displays a hitherto hidden humanity, is not entirely convincing.
The story of Amy's View is told in four acts of swift, incisive dialogue that pivots around Esme -- a problem for this Miners Alley production, since Paige L. Larson is miscast in the role. The other actors are quite good: L. Corwin Christie is an appealing Amy, with an urchin, flyaway quality that smooths into a more grown-up manner as the play progresses; Jake Mechling gives us a self-centered and quietly determined Dominic; Marion R. Rex is moving as the grandmother whose slow descent into senility and irrelevance perhaps mirrors the decline of England; and Verl Hite is a solid presence as neighbor Frank Oddie. Richard H. Pegg's set and direction, too, are meticulous. But while Larson does well with the accent and captures many of the mannerisms, she simply doesn't have the carriage, self-possession or magnetism to play Esme. She'll toe in as she sits, or curl a leg beneath her in a comfortable manner that's pure Colorado.
This is not a woman whose air kiss could send a waiter scuttling to serve her.