It’s not so much that Emelia Clarke dispels the ghost of Audrey Hepburn in her portrayal of Holly Golightly – how could she, or anyone else or that matter? But, slighter and younger (closer in age to Holly as written), Clarke imbues the role in Richard Greenberg’s adaptation of Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” with her own brand of naive sophistication. She’s quite credible, if not quite Hepburn, as the young woman who supports herself in $50 increments (in the 1940s) donated by male patrons for “trips to the powder room.
Clarke is nicely paired with Cory Michael Smith as the upstairs neighbor Holly calls Fred because he reminds her of her brother. Smith’s layered ambiguity suits Fred, a gay man utterly infatuated with elusive Holly. The pair vacillates between affection and hostility as Fred watches Holly woo, intending to wed, an American playboy and a would-be Brazilian president, only to scare off the latter with the whiff of scandal.
Greenberg’s script, truer to Capote than the bowdlerized Hollywood treatment that Hepburn rose above, is solid but lacks the novella’s magic. Capote’s tale, like Holly, is evanescent: It floats gracefully through her haphazard, elegant exploits. Greenberg’s work seems episodic. Every set change calls attention to itself, giving the work an uneven, choppy quality. What Capote lightly lets us surmise (such as Fred’s sexual preferences), Greenberg heavily proclaims. For all its carnal subtext, Capote’s wisp of a novel is ethereal; Greenberg’s play is earthbound.