I’m not a morning person.
Breakfast at Tiffinay’s, which opened last night on Broadway at the Cort Theatre, hasn’t changed my mind.
The debacled production attempts to adapt Truman Capote’s 1958 novella into a stylized homage to New York City and pulls out all the stops to do so. Sean Mathias, known for his international acclaim from northern Ireland to New Zealand, directed the piece while the trifecta Tony award-winning design team includes Derek McLane (scenic design), Colleen Atwood (costume design) and Peter Kaczorowski (lighting design). Throw another Tony award onto the pile with playwright Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out, The Violet Hour, Eastern Standard) and one would expect a sure-fire hit.
Greenberg does his best to capture the sweet and snarky rhythm of Capote’s text, but the language falls flat on the tongues of the two central characters, Holly Golighty (played by Emilia Clarke) and Fred (played by Cory Michael Smith) — the show feels doomed from the moment Smith opens his mouth in a floating accent that migrates from New Orleans to some long forgotten acting class from his alumnus Otterbein University.
It is the pair’s Broadway debut and their lack of magnetism, chemistry and inexplicable ‘wow factor’ slowly dissolve into a trudging attempt to keep the simple story chugging along. Greenberg has broken the theatrical convention of the fourth wall, having Smith deliver much of his dialogue to the audience. You could drive a freight train through the emotional gap and by the time Smith warms up the play is nearly over.
Clarke fares better but the deck is stacked against her. The ethereal ghost of Audrey Hepburn’s film interpretation looms in the wings. The creative team smartly chose to leave Henry Mancini’s “Moon River” out of the production and Clarke’s shining moment comes when singing a lonesome alternate melody on the fire escape with Fred gazing from afar. Clarke does her best to keep things moving along, slipping in and out of gorgeous period costumes that seem to hang as slightly off as the character herself.
Mathias’s staging feels clumsy set against the sliding panels illuminated with projections designed by Wendall K. Harrington — yet another reminder that the evening may have been better spent at home with the Netflix version. The actors are put through the paces of a painfully choreographed dance sequence then later directed to imitate horseback riding by using a theatrical convention that further exemplifies their lack of physical command.
There is one cameo appearance that teases the audience with what the production could have been. Veteran actor Lee Wilkof, celebrating his eighth show on Broadway, takes command of the stage as Holly’s manager, O.J. Berman. He packs a one-two punch of a monologue that reveals more about Holly than the rest of the play combined. Loud, brash and with a roller coaster of emotion and intent, perhaps Wilkof will rub off on the younger generation of actors throughout the play’s run.
Like Holly Golightly herself, Breakfast at Tiffany’s seems to have gone astray from the onset, and as many loving hands have apparently tried to shoo her back on track, she’s inevitably a lost soul.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
138 West 48th Street
Take the leap to read what the other critics have to say…