Truman Capote’s novella about a young, sexually ambivalent southern writer (played here by Cory Michael Smith) who arrives in New York and falls under the spell of his glamorous downstairs neighbor has had some gloss removed by playwright Richard Greenberg.
Greenberg’s -- and Clarke’s -- Holly comes off as a cold- eyed construct of a country girl on the lam from suffocating rural life. She’s determined to pass as an urbane sophisticate no matter how much she’s trembling underneath her chic dresses and silk robes.
In this she’s kin to Scarlett Johansson’s unorthodox, tough Catherine a few blocks away in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
But Clarke lacks Johansson’s feral stage charisma, let alone the dangerous chemistry between Holly and pretty much anyone who spins into her orbit that should make “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” more than a sentimental coming-of-age tale.
What the show has going for it is a clean but brooding look due to Derek McLane’s sliding panels deftly shuffled to create the writer’s cramped garret, Holly’s spacious flat, a bar and other locales. Wendall K. Harrington projects on them ghostly images of the city.
There’s also a grounded performance from Murphy Guyer as Doc (the great Buddy Ebsen in the film), who represents the life Holly abandoned.
But Sean Mathias’s underpopulated and somewhat epicene staging drains the life from the story. We’re left with a simulacrum: It looks like a play and acts like a play, but there’s no center of gravity. As quickly as it unfolds, the evening evaporates into the ether.
At the Cort Theatre, 138 W. 48th St. Information: +1-212- 239-6200; http://www.telecharge.com. Rating: **
The second Lanford Wilson revival of the season, following “Talley’s Folly” at the Laura Pels Theatre, brings back “The Mound Builders,” from 1975.
Set in the American heartland, the play concerns a motley group of archaeologists and hangers-on involved in a dig that uncovers important remnants of an Indian village.
They’re ensconced in the home of a local whose eyes have been widened at the prospect of an Interstate exit that will bring a hotel and ancillary business to the dying region.
While “Talley’s Folly” is an intimate two-hander, “Mound Builders” showed Wilson’s extraordinary gift for crowding the stage with fully formed, antiphonal characters.
It also showed this great writer’s prescience in taking on subjects as varied as academic self-importance, the conflict between preservation and nation-building and the intrusion of sex on, well, just about everything.
Jo Bonney’s unevenly cast and turgid staging is a rare misfire for the Signature Theatre. It fails most in generating any sexual heat among the players, especially from Will Rogers as the pivotal landlord figure, whose hunger seems unbounded by convention. An evening that should be at least as rattling as the storms raging outside the house seems little more than drizzle.
Through April 14 at the Signature Theatre, 480 W. 42nd St. Information: Office +1-212-244-7529: http://signaturetheatre.org. Rating: **
(Jeremy Gerard is the chief U.S. drama critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
To contact the writer of this column: Jeremy Gerard in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at email@example.com.