Written by By: Ariana Robinson, CNN
The “one-act play” is the typical method of building a theatrical piece. Each scene has its own beat and pacing, and thus, audience members are expected to follow along with their characters’ characters.
For D’Amelio — perhaps the modern equivalent of the monologue — all actors are given the same scene to appear in: a conversation between a scorned woman and her ex-husband. The actors perform this dialogue in real time, while the audience watches a monitor on stage and listens to a phone recording.
As director Della Cava put it, “The premise of the play is the victim – she’s a woman, he’s a man and they have a little heartbreak, but by the end we find out their relationship was complicated from the beginning.” The goal was to remove the seats in the audience, allowing the script the space to settle more easily on the emotions and behavior of these characters, who appeared on stage and off.
Since the play premiered in 2016 at the New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, it has been presented around the country and abroad. At Mifflin Street Playhouse in Baltimore in 2017, the then-29-year-old actor Stephanie Miller said that she attended the play to see what the hype was about. Miller said that she felt the oddness of trying to force two characters to sit in a face-to-face meeting.
For six minutes, Miller and an audience member sat through Miller’s dialogue. The roles were reversed, and the audience member acted as Miller’s partner. “The one-act becomes, I guess, an experiment,” she said. The two actors added their own thoughts and reactions while they were onstage, at the end of which it was on a telephone call, presumably to their mutual ex-husband. Miller decided to leave the piece.
A highlight of the production came during an extended phone call. Miller yelled a lot, and when the conversation became quiet, Miller began to murmur. Miller’s ex-husband then interrupted the conversation. “I think it’s better if I just ask, instead of asking and getting back to you,” he said.
He asked Miller why she had acted so strangely in the play. “Well, actually, I think it is easier for me to do it because I’m a woman. It’s easier for me to imagine myself. So basically, that’s what I think a woman thinks,” Miller said with a laugh. She admitted that she didn’t know how to interpret his question.
In contrast to the open discussion between the two actors, “The D’Amelio” is the story of sexual betrayal and tough advice, according to singer and co-writer for the score, Harold Finch. The musical also involves over 20 songs, including numbers such as “Money,” which explores the themes of financial independence.
Finch’s understanding of money and wealth took shape as a result of growing up in a financially destitute, single-parent household. “I also found it interesting when I was younger that ‘The D’Amelio’ had nothing to do with money, and it showed my performance. It also showed that I was carrying around a huge burden of everything in the world.”
The tone of the show brings a different kind of emotions to the stage. “I still hear people think it’s just about money, but it’s not. We want so much, but we don’t,” said the composer. “I don’t know what the piece did for people, but I think it was born out of the desire to let people know that money does not equal happiness, and I also think the conversations around sex and sex not so much”
As for the future, Finch said he would like to continue exploring the themes the piece touches on, such as how sex isn’t a “clear thing between men and women.” He said: “It’s still very much a problem with relationships in this country, and nobody wants to talk about it.”