PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 16-22: Critics Respond to Hands on a Hardbody and Breakfast at Tiffany's

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22 Mar 2013

Emilia Clarke
Emilia Clarke
Photo by Nathan Johnson

You hear that? That rumbling in the distance? Feel that vibration under your feet? That's the Tony train coming! There's no stopping it, so don't try. Just brace yourself for its arrival. The cut-off date for Tony consideration is April 25, and until then, producers will be attaching as many cars to that locomotive as the traffic will allow. Two Broadway openings a week? Three? Four? You'll see it. Get ready.

This week was a two-show deal. Both the new stage adaptation of Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's and the strangely titled new musical Hands on a Hardbody opened.

"Holly Golightly does not. Go lightly, that is," read the opening of the New York Times review of the former. The proposition of this becoming a critical hit was always a long shot, from the day it was dreamt up. The reputation of Capote's gossamer novella of an ethereal, mysterious good-time girl in 1940s New York — or, more correctly, the beloved 1961 Blake Edwards film starring Audrey Hepburn — is so solid, that is was always doubtful that the production by playwright Richard Greenberg and director Sean Mathias would meet the high expectations of critics and fans. It was even more doubtful that their choice to play Holly, Emilia Clarke, would pass muster as literature's most fascinating gamine. After all, the stage has already struck out twice with this material: once with a would-be David Merrick-produced musical in the 1960s; and more recently with a different adaptation again directed by Mathias, in London a few years ago.

The critics commended Greenberg's script for being more faithful to the book than the film was, but otherwise said the play was flat-footed. "The many scenes stubbornly refuse to add up to much and it remains as flat as Golightly is supposed to be effervescent," wrote the AP. "Greenberg's entire first act is a slog," said Entertainment Weekly, "bogged down with dreary exposition and the introduction of far too many quirky but uninteresting characters...There are too many scenes that just sit there, failing to delight and robbing the play of any semblance of narrative momentum."

Wrote Time Out: "Here is a story that…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."

And, of course, there were lots of punning jabs about the show not being up to Tiffany's levels. "More like Breakfast at Woolworth's" quipped New York magazine.


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