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[whitespace] 'Amy's View'
Mother's Way: Esme (Carol Mayo Jenkins) makes her views clear to her daughter, Amy (Christina Rainer).

Beyond Routine

Mother, daughter and boyfriend spar through 'Amy's View'

By Michael J. Vaughn

THERE ARE MOMENTS during San Jose Repertory's Amy's View when you wonder if playwright David Hare's characters will ever stop talking about mundane matters (the suburban commute, horrid vegetarian meals) and get on to something more ... theatrical. Perhaps the final answer comes in the last scene, when a stage actress asks a film director if he really enjoys making ultraviolent action movies, "or is it that you don't dare deal with real experience?"

Of course, some of the trivial matters in Hare's play have a way of blowing up. Though daughter Amy's 1979 trip to the home of her famed actress mother, Esme, seems routine, the next thing you know she's asking Mum for $5,000 under their long-time "no questions asked" agreement, and then providing answers, anyway--that she's pregnant by her film critic boyfriend, Dominic. The matter is even more troublesome, since Dominic is what Esme calls "a professional passer of judgments," a frustrated-artist critic who's determined to burn down every piece of art in his path--including Esme's beloved West End stage.

Even worse, Dominic has a temper, Amy has already served up mention of their "troubled relationship," and daughter dear is in heavy denial, determined to keep the baby without scaring away the boyfriend, positive that her steady love will be the tidal force that smooths out the knifelike jags in Dominic's personality. Mother has no choice but to step in, an action that alienates both of her juniors and establishes the unique one-side-missing triangle that conjures most of the play's proceeding conflict.

Hare essentially affords himself the best of both worlds, constructing a solidly realistic milieu but allowing himself the luxury of florid language through his characters' language-based professions (Esme declares one of Dominic's mistresses a "Scandinavian teenage charcuterie," the latter word defined as "a delicatessen specializing in dressed meats"). Hare also has fun with some chronological bunny-hopping, dating his four scenes at '79, '85, '93 and '95 and leaving the audience hunting like bloodhounds for clues about the interceding years.

The three principals make excellent use of their abilities, especially Carol Mayo Jenkins, who possesses one of those wonderfully low, husky Shakespearean voices and otherwise endows Esme with all the unflappable grace of a grand dame. Matthew Greer uses his dark features and strong baritone to lend intimidation aplenty to Dominic, while Christina Rouner's animated features are perfect for Amy's self-inflicted emotional roller coasters, threatening during her many fits of despair to melt right off her face. Another excellence is David Ledsinger's set, an immaculate rendition of Esme's house whose slow slide onto the Rep's proscenium thrust stage feels like a tracking shot from a film.

Director Timothy Near's cast is nicely rounded off by Ken Ruta as Frank, the widower neighbor whose handling of Esme's investments (an echo of the actual early-'90s crash of Lloyd's of London) is precisely one of those mundane, everyday matters that can change your life forever.

Amy's View plays Tuesday-Friday at 8pm; Saturday at 3 and 8pm; Sunday at 2 and 7pm through Nov. 26 at 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose. Tickets are $17-$37. (408.367.7255 or www.sjrep.com)

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From the November 9-15, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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