‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ is no cup of tea

Emilia Clarke and Cory Michael Smith in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' at the Cort Theatre — Photo courtesy of Nathan Johnson
Emilia Clarke and Cory Michael Smith in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ at the Cort Theatre — Photo courtesy of Nathan Johnson

NEW YORK — Where’s Audrey Hepburn when you need her?

Emilia Clarke, the beautiful star of Game of Thrones, is making her Broadway debut in a less-than-worthy starring vehicle. Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s has been adapted for the stage by Richard Greenberg, and the jump from novella to play has eliminated all traces of humor, motivation and overall purpose. These two and a half hours are slow, wooden dull — like a walk through a never-ending, cheesy wax museum.

Clarke plays Holly Golightly, a young woman who enjoys fine dining and being the toast of any soiree. She has many male suitors and loves each and every one of their gifts. Clarke plays this iconic role with an annoying accent that is meant to mimic the society talk of the 1940s (“dah-lings” this and “dah-lings” that), but the voice never works. Actually, it proves so grating by the end of the evening, it’s a wonder how many men still keep her company.

Our main protagonist is Fred (Cory Michael Smith), a struggling writer who lives down the hallway from Holly in a New York City brownstone. He’s instantly attracted to this confident woman, interested in how she lives her life and whether there’s any room for his advances. The setup is similar to Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories, which was later adapted into the musical Cabaret. A young, innocent man is captured by the beauty of the unattainable.

Michael Smith excels in his central role, although Greenberg’s play doesn’t offer many chances to shine. First off, he’s subject to a distracting narrator role where he breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience directly. Suddenly this period piece jumps off the stage, and everything feels pulled in one too many directions. We’re a 2013 audience, and a character in the 1940s is talking to us like he knows both generations. He even references the “cheap seats” like this were some type of call-and-response event.

George Wendt is passably enjoyable as a local bartender, although his role of Joe Bell is underwritten and seems like a throwaway. Much like his days on Cheers, his character dispenses unsolicited advice to the young beauties in love. It’s a thankless part with no real purpose in the play.

Director Sean Mathias never speeds up the action but instead slows everything down to a snail’s crawl. In between scenes we’re given atmospheric jazz music that serves as helpful transitions. … Or at least they do the first few times. Eventually this bag of tricks becomes a crutch.

There’s a host of other characters who float in and out of Holly’s life, none of them memorable. Worst of all, there’s never a break from the theatrics of Holly’s life. She’s obviously putting up a front to fit in with her society hubbies, but even in quieter scenes we’re not given a window into the true woman behind the dresses, hair and jewelry.

Why has she chosen this life? Why does she put on a confident face when she’s hurting inside? I wasn’t about to wait another hour to find out.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s

  • Stage adaptation by Richard Greenberg; baed on the novella by Truman Capote

  • Starring Emilia Clarke, Cory Michael Smith and George Wendt

  • Currently playing at the Cort Theatre, 138 W. 48th St. in Manhattan. Click here for more information.

  • Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

  • Rating: ★½☆☆

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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