Breakfast at Tiffany's

Theater , Drama
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Photograph: Nathan Johnson
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Photograph: Nathan Johnson
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Photograph: Nathan Johnson
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Photograph: Nathan Johnson
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Photograph: Nathan Johnson
Breakfast at Tiffany's

Theater review by Adam Feldman. Cort Theatre (Broadway). By Richard Greenberg. Dir. Sean Mathias. With Emilia Clarke, Cory Michael Smith. 2hrs 20mins. One intermission.

After a long gestation and a difficult labor, including a last-minute funding scare, Breakfast at Tiffany’s arrives on Broadway meager and stillborn. Here is a story that—in both Truman Capote’s 1958 novella and Blake Edwards’s 1961 film—relies on the restive charm of its central figure: Holly Golightly, a beauteous young courtesan in 1940s New York, who conceals her hillbilly roots beneath a blithe, insouciant manner and a cultivated voice flecked with faux French. “She isn’t a phony because she’s a real phony,” as someone explains to the writer who lives next door to her. “She believes all this crap she believes.” In the Broadway version, she never seems to believe it for a moment; Breakfast at Tiffany’s is phony through and through.

Attempting to capture Capote’s air, Richard Greenberg’s script overflows with fancy verbiage but struggles in vain to turn it into drama. Blink and you’ll miss important plot points; close your eyes for longer, as you’ll be tempted to, and you may get lost in the stagnant fog of storytelling. The talented Cory Michael Smith brings a mildly anxious edge to his thankless duties as narrator and Capote stand-in, but the coy passivity of the role defeats him. And the British director, Sean Mathias, surrounds him with supporting performances pitched at so blaring a volume of ugly-American vulgarity that they undercut any literary sensitivity to which the play might aspire.

In its combination of crassness and dullness, Breakfast at Tiffany’s recalls another 1960s-film stage adaptation, The Graduate; like that show, it features a brief nude scene for its leading lady that has been the subject of some advance press. (Perhaps they should just call the play Sideboob in Bathtub.) But although she’s a beautiful young woman, Emilia Clarke seems washed-out onstage well before her gratuitous cleansing. Dressed in gorgeous costumes by Colleen Atwood, with an accent that tilts oddly toward the far side of the Atlantic, Clarke comes off as a girl whose mum has dressed her up as Holly for Halloween. She seems neither sophisticated nor wild; she doesn’t seem like anything at all, poor thing. To the extent that her Holly inspires sympathy, it is for a pretty actor with little stage experience, modestly well-known from HBO’s Game of Thrones, thrust into a part she is not equipped to carry. She goes out there a starlet and comes back a youngster.—Adam Feldman

Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam

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Could not agree with you more. It was the most boring playing i have seen on Broadway in 10 years. I wish i did my homework and read the critics reviews. It gives Broadway a bad name. How can something like this get produced?

Jennifer Brightman

Goodness! Did your reviewer see the same play as me?! My husband and I really enjoyed this. Sure, it is not the film but I didn't go to see the film and thought it stayed true to the book. I liked Emilia's accent and manner and thought it portrayed her vulnerability as a woman in the 1940's well, hiding her past and hurt with a facade that every now and then cracks and we get to see a sliver of the little girl she really is. It is so easy to forget these days what life was like for a woman at that time and how limited her decisions and power were. As a more than ample co-star, Corey playing Fred was doting, likeable and charming. I liked the way the set had been done with projections of the city landscape as it gave it an aged film-like quality and I was amused by the crazy neighbours and supporting cast. A good evening of proper theater in my opinion. I'm no expert but I'm happy I spent my money on the evening and would recommend it to friends.