I suppose it’s possible to deliver a character study play without story tension, but I don’t know of an example. I think, rather, of Butley and Otherwise Engaged by Simon Gray, which seem to be day-in-the-life portraits but are really ruminations on private turmoil: Butley’s a college professor who needs to make everybody else miserable in an exhaustive attempt to keep change from invading his life and validate his own sense of failure; and Simon Hench wants to be left alone to listen to his classical recording of Wagner music, not caring what relationships he destroys to preserve his desire for isolation. Neither of those things sound like much, but each is an objective that needs to overcome barriers. Thus: conflict. Alas, Richard Greenberg’s adaptation of Truman Capote’s novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s has very little conflict that lasts beyond the length of a vignette. Indeed, the play presents (it seems a misnomer to use the word dramatizes) a series of vignettes (anecdotal situations, if you will, since the play is narrated by the young man-observer is (Cory Michael Smith) designed to create a portrait of an enigmatic, alluring but vulnerable young woman—literature and filmdom’s iconic Holly Golightly (Emilia Clarke). The intention is one of delicacy and painting in gentle brushstrokes, but the result is a soporific enterprise with almost no forward propulsive energy. Add to this listless direction (by Sean Mathias) and lackluster casting of the leads (some excellent character people like Suzanne Bertish and George Wendt, among others, are doing what they can, but mostly abandoned in a sea of dullness) and it’s hard to imagine that any more misguided choices could have been made, almost across the board.
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