at the theatre: breakfast at tiffany’s & ann

Ann & Breakfast at Tiffanys

I don’t get the sentimental attraction to Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Is it the waifish innocence of Audrey Hepburn’s Givenchy-clad eccentric crooning “Moon River” in the film version that sets the hearts of grown men and women aflutter? Or is it nostalgia for a time when it seemed possible that anybody could reinvent themselves simply by wishing it so? Either way, I don’t buy it. Maybe there’s a charm and subtlety to Capote’s novella – no less a curmudgeon than Norman Mailer declared that he “would not change two words” of it – but Holly Golightly is no radical; she is no Sally Bowles. For one, the two black sheep at the center of the story lack the context that made the denizens of Christopher Isherwood’s “Berlin Stories” so excitingly alive. This problem is only exacerbated in playwright Richard Greenberg’s lovingly dusty adaptation now in previews at the Cort Theater on Broadway. Holly and Fred, the unsexed homosexual narrator who sets this flight of fancy in motion, aren’t so much two lost souls as two souls lost in schmaltz. Fidelity to the source seems to have jaundiced Greenberg’s usually sharp dramatic eye. Director Sean Mathias – who helmed a different adaptation of the story to less than glowing notices in London last year – adds only fuel to the nostalgia fire with gauzy scrims and violins and projections which yearn for a city long since gone. When I wasn’t dozing off I had the distinct feeling of watching a play through the lenses of a stereopticon – until a painfully awkward nude scene involving a bathtub and strategically placed bubbles arrived too little too late. (Mr. Mathias, if you recall, is the man who orchestrated a lengthy nude scene for Jude Law’s Broadway debut in a play whose title might just as well serve on the marquee at the Cort, Indiscretions.) Cory Michael Smith, forceful and riveting in Mike Bartlett’s Cock two seasons ago at The Duke, makes a likable, if bland, Broadway debut here. Would that Mr. Mathias lavished as much attention on Smith’s sculpted abs as he did Law’s manhood. And poor Emilia Clarke, well, she just seems out of her league as jolly Holly – but then what actress could make this wholly unbelievable character believable? Winsome melancholy doesn’t really travel well across the footlights. If you prefer your characters a bit stronger or, say, larger than life, better to skip uptown where Holland Taylor isn’t so much portraying charismatic Texas Governor Ann Richards as channeling her onstage at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont. As written by Taylor, it’s not much of a play – a few anecdotes here, a bit of hagiography there – and I’m not entirely sure it’s deserving of the overproduced Broadway production it enjoys, but it’s immensely satisfying – not mention a change of pace – to sit in the presence of a dynamic politician who had not only a gift for the gab and a talent for zingers but also believed in the higher calling of public service.

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