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A CurtainUp Review
Breakfast at Tiffany's
"I've got the most terrifying man downstairs. I mean he's sweet when he isn't drunk, but let him start lapping up the vino, and oh God quel beast! If there's one thing I loathe, it's men who bite. I'm sorry if I frightened you, but that fire escape was damned icy. And you looked so cozy. Like my brother Fred. We used to sleep four in a bed, and he was the only one that ever let me hug him on a cold night. By the way, do you mind if I call you Fred? — Holly
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Emilia Clark and Vincent
As we sauntered along 48th Street on our way to the venerable Cort Theatre, we noticed a handsome plump tabby being held snuggly in a blanket in the arms of its escort. Instinctively a friend who was also headed to the play yelled out, "Are you going on stage tonight? Break a paw." Wouldn't you know that the sly puss slowly turned its head around blinked and glared at her, as if to say, "Where else would I be going on this chilly night?"

Cat and escort disappeared through the stage door entrance, where Vito Vincent (as identified in the program credits) evidently did warm up or lap up. At any rate, he gave a memorable and totally mesmerizing performance that included a little extra turn-of-the-head toward his owner Holly Golightly.

Holly is played by the also beguiling if slightly less stage worthy Emilia Clarke, who is making her Broadway debut. Since Vincent who plays "Cat" is not really the star of Richard Greenberg's stage adaptation of Truman Capote's 1958 novella, I'll say no more about his supporting although significant role except that he out-classes and out-performs many of the actors. As directed by Sean Mathias, most of the support players seem to believe that becoming grotesque caricatures would help define them in this Holly's shallow, stupefying world.

It isn't easy to get the image of Holly's most famous and adored interpreter Audrey Hepburn out of one's mind, or of the utterly romantic mood (be it ever so wrong) created by director Blake Edward's for his 1961 film version. I was marginally gratified by the colder, more depressing vision that Greenberg and Mathias, as well as scenic designer Derek McLane and projectionist Wendall K. Harrington have created to bring us back unromantically to the novel's time period New York City in 1943, 1944 and 1957.

The last date is the point of departure for the flashbacks as recalled by Fred (Cory Michael Smith). As the play's narrator and Holly's erstwhile friend and Capote's alter ego, he is by 1957 is a successful writer. We thus see him return to the East Side neighborhood bar and frequent hangout for Holly and her entourage where he is seen bathed in the drearily atmospheric glow provided for most of the play by lighting designer Peter Kaczorowsky. George Wendt gives a very nice performance as Joe Bell, the bartender with a crush on Holly.

But given the wonderful views of the city — the vintage photos of (some recognizable) Stork Club-ers, theater marquees, even sailors on the prowl that are indeed atmospheric — the sliding panels that expose the episodic and thematically redundant goings-on are not all that compelling. Yet within the dingy brownstone building where Fred, who is gay, becomes infatuated with the flighty, unmercifully mercenary, free-spirited party girl known as Holly, there are fleeting moments in which Capote's prose takes flight.

Fred provides a genuinely fascinating and extremely personable ho ok into Holly's world, be it ever so humble for a (sshh don't say it out loud) hooker. For Smith, who was terrific in both The Cockfight Play and The Whale Off Broadway, this is an impressive Broadway debut. It's both curious and wonderful that the actor puts Fred in the somewhat perverse situation of making us care more about him than we do about that twit who managed to fascinate him. His warm Southern drawl is as affecting as is his personable narration that brings forth memories of Tom in The Glass Menagerie. When it comes to allusions to other dramatic relationships, Fred's and Holly's bonding is remarkably similar to that of Cliff Bradshaw and Sally Bowles in Cabaret.

Holly, that misplaced girl from Tulip, Texas, is slim and attractive and looks quite appealing in Colleen Atwoods's not overly pretentious attire (forget about Hepburn in Givenchy). Though Clarke's performance is overly shrill and superficially manufactured performance, there is a glint of innocent sophistication that makes her a reasonable prospect for the many unattractive, wealthy, and foolish men who will vie for her favors and keep her solvent.

Fred, although smitten by Holly in his own way, is no innocent when it comes to finding sex in the city (he gets fired for having sex in the stock room of the New Yorker Magazine). He and Holly have a nice but completely unnecessary in-the-nude rendezvous in a bathtub without the suds, emotional or otherwise.

It's hard to fathom why the producers would want Mathias, who directed a different but failed version, of the story in London ( Curtainup's review ) to try his hand again when a completely fresh approach would seem the better choice. Not that any previous attempt has worked. Some might recall the 1966 musical version that starred Mary Tyler Moore and Richard Chamberlain that closed during preview.

I can't help but wonder of how long it will take to get the memory out of my mind of all those impossible-to-watch supporting players (some who I have been seen to better advantage) who have been made to portray the host of hideous and revolting characters that populate (or is it pollute?) Holly's soirees?

Where's that darn cat when we need it? Meow!

Breakfast at Tiffany's
By Richard Greenberg, adapted from the novella by Truman Capote
Directed by Sean Mathias

Cast: Cory Michael Smith (Fred), George Wendt (Joe Bell), James Yaegashi (L.Y. Unioshi), Suzanne Bertish (Madame Spanella, Stern lady boss), Emilia Clarke (Holly Golightly), John Rothman (Sid Arbuck, Editor), Lee Wilkof (OJ Berman), Tony Torn (Rusty Trawler), Kate Cullen Roberts (Mag Wildwood), Murphy Guyer (Air Force Colonel, Doc), Eddie Korbich (Department Store Owner, Dr. Goldman), Elizabeth Anthony Gray (Journalist, Cop), Pedro Carmo (Jose), Danny Binstock (Reporter), Paolo Montalban (Rusty's servant).
Scenic Design: Derek McLane
Costume Design: Colleen Atwood
Lighting Design: Peter Kaczorowski
Projection Design: Wendall K. Harrington
Original Music & Sound Design: Rob Milburn & Michael Bodeen
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes including intermission
Cort Theatre, 138 West 48th Street
800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200
Tickets: $37.00 - $132.00
Performances: Tuesday at 7 pm, Wednesday at 2 pm and 7 pm, Thursday at 7 pm, Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 2 pm and 8 pm and Sunday at 3 pm.
From 03/04/13 Opened 03/2013; closing 4/28/13
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 03/21/13
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