Breakfast at Tiffany’s: What the Cat Dragged In

Well, first you’ll want to know about the star: sleek of hair and body, effortlessly graceful, vulnerable and jaded by turns, but perhaps rather tubbier than anticipated. I speak, of course, of the cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, played on the night I attended by a portly marmalade tom named Vito Vincent. Though he appears in only a few scenes, Vito earned the most audible audience reaction (a chorus of ahs greeted his every entrance) and perhaps the loudest clapping. The bows of Holly, played here by Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke? Those merited only modest applause.

Far more faithful to Truman Capote’s novella than the celebrated film version (and happily lacking in yellowface), this drama, adapted by Richard Greenberg, borrows the flashback structure and the self-conscious narration of a young writer nicknamed Fred. Set in 1940s Manhattan and concerning the adventures of fraught goodtime girl Holly Golightly, the novella is a nifty bit of prose, as acid as it is wistful, but that tone doesn’t translate here. The many awkward moments in Sean Mathias’s staging (such as when a piece of scenery shunts the guitar-strumming Clarke on and offstage to indulge Fred’s reminiscences) only play up the considerable gap between prose and drama.

Really, it’s surprising Greenberg didn’t fare better. His early play The American Plan, though set a decade and a half later and a hundred miles off, concerns a similar set of thwarted ambitions and sexual confusion. But he never works up much of an appetite for Breakfast. He re-creates its scenes in stolid, workmanlike, and largely uninspired fashion, with a greater frankness toward sexual matters his only obvious intervention. The light, dreamy touch that occasionally uplifts even his heavier dramas is absent here.

Corey Michael Smith provides a perfectly adequate turn as Fred, despite a wavering accent, though the candor that enlivened his recent work in Cock and The Whale seems muted here. George Wendt, who earns a round of applause just for stepping onstage as a melancholy barkeep, looks like he’d rather be anywhere else.

And the lovely Clarke appears even more at sea. She hasn’t bothered to trade her British accent for an American one, and her efforts at revealing Holly’s weaknesses are wasted as she never convincingly portrays the air of sophistication that supposedly overlays them. As you never believe in her, not even as a phony, you can never care about her, however scrumptious she looks in Colleen Atwood’s costumes. The supporting cast mostly looks as though they’d prefer be offstage checking their phones for news of upcoming auditions. Even Vito.

Cats, we’re told, always land on their feet. But this production falls decidedly flat.

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