The Hartford Stage production of Tea at Five, starring Kate Mulgrew, may reach New York City this fall. Mulgrew, who has been suffering from inflamed vocal chords, said on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" Feb. 28 that the Katherine Hepburn bio-play would reach "New York in the late fall—we hope."
Mulgrew did not specify Broadway or Off-Broadway, but one source has the show definitely angling for Broadway. No official announcement has been made about the New York plans for Tea at Five.
If Mulgrew does reach Manhattan, she may join Elaine Stritch, Nathan Lane and Kevin Bacon as the latest star to play less that the standard eight shows a week. Mulgrew, complaining of vocal trouble, bowed out of several performances of Tea at Five early in the run. She has since cut back to only six shows a week. Hartford is currently examining ways to accommodate all its subscribers for the sold-out production. The play closes on March 10.
The Matthew Lombardo play began performances Feb. 7 at Hartford Stage. John Tillinger, that roving director of the Northeast (Williamstown Theatre Festival, Long Wharf Theatre), helms the work.
* 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." The first "Voyager" motion picture, titled "Star Trek: Nemesis," was recently filmed.
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—By Robert Simonson
and David Greven