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Dunaway Has Tea at Five

“And then it dawned on me – I’ll go back to my roots. 
The theatre.  Back to Broadway.  Big mistake.”  
  
– 
Faye Dunaway as Katharine Hepburn in the play Tea at Five
This may be one of those art-imitating-life-imitating-art moments.

In years to come, when I contend that nothing exciting ever happens in June, please remind me about Faye Dunaway’s appearance as Katharine Hepburn in Matthew Lombardo’s Tea at Five at Boston’s Huntington Theatre.  To enumerate Miss Dunaway’s theatrical talents is beyond the confines of this column.  Surely she has the goods – skills that were honed at Boston University, which utilizes the Huntington Theatre for its productions.  Alas, the necessary ingredients did not come together for an unforgettable evening of theatre.

To be fair, opening night was after only a handful of previews, Faye is 78, and she hasn’t been on stage since…well, don’t even go there.  On the positive side, she does get through the show – although one can hardly say that in an ad.  What is curiously absent is anything even slightly reminiscent of the Great Kate.  In her red wig, Dunaway physically evokes memories of a latter-day Mary Tyler Moore.  Her character may have a broken ankle, but Faye’s Hepburn walks around with ease.  Where is she going?  To take sips out of strategically placed glasses of water.  After all, seniors need to stay hydrated.  There is not the slightest tremor – although the malady is referred to in the script.  Hepburn’s inimitable tight Yankee diction is all but missing.  As to the words, they don’t come to Faye easily – despite the aid of an earpiece (unless she is also guiding planes into Logan Airport).  Dunaway’s acting style is more of a slow, intense burn rather than Kate’s natural clip.  It’s a strange confluence that simply doesn’t gel.  As performed by La Dunaway, Lombardo’s script seems less engaging here than ever before.  I suppose it could all come together during the course of the remaining two weeks in Boston.  But Broadway?  I don’t think so.  Frankly, I’d advise all fans to swarm to Boston immediately.  At least that way you’ll be able to say you saw it.

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