Literary Illusions

All that's inside Amy's View, anyway, is the uninteresting hostility between Amy's widowed mother, a semifamous actress named Esmé, and Amy's husband, a parentless prig named Dominic, who begins as a scruffy young journalist with a vague desire to make films and ends, 16 years later, having just become the next Anglo-Tarantino, with a hit flick full of exploding heads and suchlike. Esmé, meanwhile, has sustained her stubborn integrity through increasingly reduced circumstances until, having lost everything (through a story so preposterous you may think some banker was pulling Hare's leg), she finds some contentment acting in a pretentious two-person allegory at a Fringe theater. By this time, Amy's dead— we're never told how— but even that can't reconcile an actress to a critic turned auteur.

Richard Eyre has staged Amy's View as if it made sense, which was honorable of him, and everyone in its cast, English or American, is very good, particularly Tate Donovan as the unyielding son-in-law and Anne Pitoniak in the truly thankless role of Esmé's mother-in-law. The chief point of the exercise, of course, is the display on Broadway of Judi Dench as Esmé. She is a solid, forthright, affecting performer, and we're happy to have her here. However, since there are roughly 200 actresses her age in New York with similar brisk timing, cigarette voices, and sly humor, it would have been nice to see Dench act a role in a play rather than merely showing off her persona in this threadbare imitation.

Jeff McCarthy and Judy Kuhn in Dream True: a cool view of fevered romantics
Carol Rosegg
Jeff McCarthy and Judy Kuhn in Dream True: a cool view of fevered romantics

Details

Dream True
By Tina Landau
Music by Ricky Ian Gordon
Vineyard Theatre
108 East 15th Street
353-3874

Amy's View
By David Hare
Ethel Barrymore Theatre
Broadway and 47th Street
239-6200

Marlene
By Pam Gems
Cort Theatre
Broadway and 48th Street
239-6200

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And there's even worse news from En- gland: Pam Gems, the literary equivalent of mad cow disease, is on the rampage again, turning yet another dead celebrity's career into tainted hamburger. Can't she be confined somewhere, like Typhoid Mary, and forbidden to write plays on grounds of public health? A mental institution would seem to be the logical place for her false dreams: Her earlier ventures in icon exploitation, Piaf and Stanley, were merely stupid and tiresome, but Marlene is downright incoherent as well. Yes, there's the diva in her dressing room, now scrubbing the floor, now pleading for understanding, now lording it over everyone and refusing to go on. About half the bits are untrue— trust Gems to get everything important wrong— but why care, when they're pasted together so randomly? And there, in the midst of this pool of sewer-pipe effluent from yesterday's tabloids, is Sîan Phillips, a singing actress of elegance, magnetism, and charm. Can her ambition in life really be to emulate the drag queens who mimic Dietrich in third-rate nightclubs? Bernard Shaw once had to review the popular 1890s soubrette Kate Phillips in a demeaning role in a stupid play. He said, "I congratulate the part on Miss Kate Phillips, without in any way congratulating Miss Kate Phillips on the part." Just change "Kate" to "Sîan" and he's written my review.

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