What's black and white and covered with "mean reds"? Why, the long-time-in-coming Broadway debut of Truman Capote's classic 1957 novella, Breakfast at Tiffany's, which finally made it over the finish line March 20 at the Cort, of course.
First-nighters obviously got the dress-code memo and turned out splendidly turned out in black and white — a deep and respectful bow to the legendary black-and-white masque ball at the Plaza which Capote gave in 1966 to honor Katharine Graham. "Mean reds" was that horrible condition his idiosyncratic Tiffany's heroine, Holly Golightly, described as being afraid and not knowing what you're afraid of — and, certainly, that's an apt description of the anxieties on any Broadway opening night.
What Holly in the 1961 movie version always took for the "mean reds" was a cab to Tiffany's. "Calms me down right away," she always said. Unfortunately, Tiffany's is not a stop in Richard Greenberg's stage adaptation of the Capote story, although it does get around Manhattan circa 1943, following the antics of an exuberant spirit (one-part call-girl, one-part con-artist), as seen through the ever-widening eyes of a neighbor newly arrived to the city and to sin (Capote never gave himself, the narrator, a name; Holly called him "Fred" after her brother, away at World War II).
The popular Audrey Hepburn picture weighs a ton on this dark, sad little tale, which Capote originally told and which Greenberg has gamely attempted to second, to the point of merely typing huge chunks of the original verbiage into the play. Instead of Technicolor, the stage is atmospherically splashed with blowups of black-and-white photos right out of Life (the magazine).
"We used the photographs of Andreas Feininger, who was a great photographer of New York in the 1940s," relayed set designer Derek McLane. "We got the rights from his estate to use his photographs and we had them printed on the scrim panels that surrounded the set. To me, they really feel like the cityscape of '40s New York.
"One of the challenges I faced is the fact that the play is so different from the movie it really needs to have its own look — something completely distinct from the movie. It's set in a different era and has a completely different tone. It's much more of a memory piece, more noir-y, darker, smokier — and these have a lot of atmosphere."
Broadway-bowing in the iconic lead roles — no pressure! — are Emilia Clarke, who hangs out with dragons and such on HBO's series "Game of Thrones" instead of oversexed urban cave-dwellers, and, as Designated "Fred," Cory Michael Smith, last seen peddling Mormon books (not in that show!), in The Whale Off-Broadway.
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