Kate Mulgrew Will Brew Tea at Promenade, Beginning Feb. 25
By Robert Simonson
Tea at Five, the Katharine Hepburn-centered solo play starring Kate Mulgrew, will begin performances at Off-Broadway Promenade Theatre on Feb. 25. The booking confirms weeks of speculation that the itinerant Matthew Lombardo play had finally found a New York home.
John Tillinger directs the show, which originated at Hartford Stage in February 2002. It has since traveled to the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA, Sept. 8-22.
Last winter, the show was rumored for Broadway this fall. Mulgrew said on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" Feb. 28 that the bio-play would reach "New York in the late fall—we hope."
The play began performances Feb. 7 at Hartford Stage. Mulgrew, complaining of vocal trouble, bowed out of several performances of Tea at Five early in the run. She then cut back to only six shows a week. The play closed on March 10 and Mulgrew returned later in the spring to make up the lost shows.
Tea at Five finds Hepburn — who is a longtime Connecticut resident — at her home in Old Saybrook. The first act takes place in 1938, a brief dip in Hepburn's career when a series of film flops got her branded "box-office poison." She would soon rebound with The Philadelphia Story, in which she starred on Broadway before buying up the film rights. In this section of the play, the actress reflects on her patrician, privileged upbringing, no doubt touching on her devotion to her father and her vaunted athletic prowess.
The second act speeds ahead 45 years to 1983. Here, recuperating from an car accident, she looks back on her storied career and famed romance with fellow (and married) actor Spencer Tracy.
"I've often been likened to her," Mulgrew told Playbill On-Line. Lombardo recalled being at a friend's house about five years ago, and marveling at Mulgrew's Hepburnesque qualities. "It was at that point that I decided to write the play, inspired by Kate," Lombardo says. It is a tailor-made star piece, written specifically for Mulgrew. "The play would not have been written without Kate," Lombardo says. "Kate is astonishing in the role. I am utterly in awe—just to watch her work, create this character from the words on the page."
When asked what drew her to Lombardo's work, Mulgrew replied, "The words!... All one's life one hears about this woman. And now we have this play, using the conceit of this one-woman show— the youthful, embattled Hepburn versus the older Hepburn."
Mulgrew has appeared on Broadway in Black Comedy and in Central Park in Titus Andronicus, but she is far better known as the strong-jawed Captain Janeway, who spends most of her time piloting "Star Trek: Voyager."
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