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Tea at Five
A New Play By Matthew Lombardo
Directed by John Tillinger
2162 Broadway at 76th Street
Set Design, Tony Straiges
Costume Design, Jess Goldstein
Lighting Design, Kevin Adams
Sound Design, John Gromada
Wig Design, Paul Huntley
Production Supervisor, Peter R. Feuchtwanger
Production Stage Manager, Christine Catti
General Manager/Producer, Paul Morer
Marketing, Leanne Schanzer Promotions
Associate Director, Jules Ochoa
Producers, Daryl Roth, Michael Filerman,
Amy Nederlander, Scott Nederlander, Paul Morer
Press Representative/Producer, David Gersten & Associates
World Premiere at Hartford Stage
Starring Kate Mulgrew as Katherine Hepburn
(Kate Mulgrew Website) (Katherine Hepburn Website)
By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 8, 2003
Against a most exquisite set, crafted from what appeared to be flooring and walls of cherry or cedar, a large red, brick fireplace, curtained windows that overlook the Connecticut shore, plush couches, antique furniture, a grandfather clock, and a silver tea set, Kate Mulgrew offers us the most amazing solo performance I've seen in many years. The former Captain Kathryn Janeway on the Star Trek: Voyager series and the film, Star Trek: Nemesis, as well as the former actress in Cheers and Murphy Brown, Kate Mulgrew, as Katherine Hepburn, is versatile, poignant, quick-witted, and vulnerable.
Kate Mulgrew at Katherine Hepburn in Tea at Five
Photo courtesy of Carol Rosegg
In two acts, with two incredibly realistic wigs, costumes, postures, and speech patterns, Ms. Mulgrew becomes the 1938 Katherine Hepburn, as clinging and insecure actress, and the 1983 Katherine Hepburn, as reminiscent and emotional woman. There was something in each of these Hepburns with which every woman in the audience could identify. And, there was something in each of these Hepburns to which every man in the audience could be attracted. The youthful Hepburn, in a suit and heels and wig of long red waves, was portrayed as swaggering, neurotic, self-conscious, argumentative, feisty, sexy, witty, ambitious, and alienated. The elderly Hepburn, in loose slacks, casual shirt, clog shoes, a cane, a wrapped man's sweater, and a wig of brownish, tied-back hair, was portrayed as shaky, twitching, raspy, full of emotion, yet still feisty.
The audience is entertained with hilarious stories about Hepburn's inner circle of friends and associates, as well as insightful diatribes against Hollywood and the loss of the Gone With the Wind starring role to Vivien Leigh. The audience is also moved to thick silence with heartbreaking stories of family tragedies and the absence of familial connection. In fact, the personal connection that was strongest for Hepburn seemed to exist in her love for Spencer Tracy, a man who was clearly not perfect, but whom she admired and unequivocally understood. Moreover, she tolerated in Tracy some extreme behavior and character weaknesses that were far more painful than the minor inconsistencies in the services of her live-in maid, whom she had fired for forgetting cookies with tea. Ms. Mulgrew taught us, through her seamless and perfected performance, that Hepburn loved Tracy with the depth of emotion and caring that was lacking in her icy relationship with her father, a cold, withholding man. Kudos to Kate Mulgrew and to Katherine Hepburn!
After this outstanding theatrical presentation, which I was fortunate to experience tonight, I intend to run to the neighborhood video store to find some of Hepburn's films, including The Philadelphia Story, the script she had just received as the curtain fell. I would also, uncharacteristically for me, like to see Ms. Mulgrew in one of her Star Trek roles, for which she is so famous, and I am sure my good friend, Robert Abrams, will lead me to this source. I highly recommend ordering tickets immediately for the Promenade Theatre's production of Tea at Five, a metaphor for the survival of class and tradition (Hepburn's mother's silver tea set, the catalyst for family conversation, rescued from beneath the sand, after a hurricane). In the midst of international turmoil, it would be so lovely if we could all take a break and have tea at five. Perhaps civility and communication would ensue.