The problem with taking a beloved movie and making it a play is that people have expectations.
In “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” that’s just the beginning. Expectations are not only missed, even once lowered, they are dashed completely.
I harbored none walking into Broadway’s Cort Theatre. Except for the iconic image of Audrey Hepburn in her little black dress, pearls, diamonds and opera gloves, I have no strong memories of the 1961 film. Naturally no one should try to mimic Hepburn, and it has not gone well for actresses who have.
Emilia Clarke does not make that misstep. She is very much her own Holly Golightly. What that is, though, is not clear.
Fierce and increasingly self-confident as she is as Daenerys Targaryen in “Game of Thrones,” here Clarke is just trying so hard that all we can see is her acting with a capital A. The result is not quite one-dimensional.
You want to feel something — anything – for Holly Golightly. Clarke only makes us feel the passage of time, and it sits heavily upon us, as she gads about, purring like a lost Kim Cattrall.
Clarke is stunning and wears her many satin costumes beautifully. That’s enough for a catwalk, not Broadway.
Cory Michael Smith as Fred fares better. Perhaps that’s because he plays Truman Capote’s character and this is based on Capote’s novella. Capote possessed wit and charm, some of which manages to survive this production.
Set in 1957 and 1943, Holly has fled her prior life. We learn she was a child bride of an older man. Like millions before her, Holly ran to New York to re-invent herself. Holly lives off men, trading her good lucks for money. She falls in love with inappropriate men. Most can’t resist her — including the gay fledgling writer upstairs, Fred.
Holly has parties and goes to nightclubs, but even these scenes, particularly the party scenes, are leaden. Holly’s cat gets the biggest reaction of the night, and considering Holly falls in love, has her heart broken, the husband she left behind in Texas tracks her down, she becomes pregnant by a Brazilian politician and she goes on the the lam once charged with felonies, the emotions triggered should run deeper than a collective “awww” for a cat.
It’s not all Clarke’s fault. The play is dull and feels very long. The nude scene, which received an undue amount of attention, is unnecessary. Accents fly all over the place with Fred’s strained Southern accent and Holly’s takes many forms.
There are some better moments. It’s lovely to see George Wendt (“Cheers”) turn up as barkeep Joe, and as always, he improves whatever production he’s in. Like every man who crosses Holly’s path, Joe is in love with her.
That’s understandable — Holly is gorgeous and sensual; she’s open about sex and lives in the moment. Holly Golightly, a vulnerable yet shrewd siren, seeks her place in the world. She just wants to have have some fun. We all do, but it’s not to be had here.