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July 14 2024


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Mulgrew Makes Waves As Hepburn

By Antony
March 10, 2003 - 11:24 PM

Kate Mulgrew(Kathryn Janeway) is making waves in her one-woman play "Tea at Five", and the critics are impressed. Mulgrew for her part is happy to rise to the demand.

"I feel deeply comfortable in her skin," Mulgrew told Kansas City Star. "I've actually never felt this way before in my whole life as an actor. She's bigger than me, so I really have to meet her every night, fully."

In comparison to her Trek role, Mulgrew explained that theatre was liberating. "When I was doing Voyager, my goal was, 'When this is finished, I'm going to find out if I can still act deeply.' Television is strangely safe. It's just you and the camera. Now, I get to let go."

The critics, for the most part, have nothing but praise for Mulgrew in her new role. In fact many agree that she is the only thing that's really good about the show.

Matthew Murray at Talkin' Broadway was enamoured with Mulgrew, even taking the opportunity to belittle Star Trek: Voyager. "If the actress playing the actress is also famous," he wrote, "but not known for doing work of the same depth, can anyone emerge unscathed? You'll have to ask someone other than Kate Mulgrew. She's too busy being — not playing, being — screen legend Katharine Hepburn in Tea at Five at the Promenade Theatre. She originated the role at Hartford Stages last year and, after a few other stops, has burst onto the New York stage in an electrifying glow that should promise to catapult her career to the next level her seven year detour on Star Trek: Voyager never quite allowed. She really is that good." The full review can be found here.

Malcolm Johnson at felt Mulgrew's mimicry of Hepburn was enjoyable, and perhaps in some ways the only point of the show. "Matthew Lombardo's sometimes scandalous, often catty look at Hepburn at 31 and 76 takes its strengths from Mulgrew's impressive gifts for both mimicry and style. Seen a second time, the play itself comes across as an even thinner piece than it initially seemed. This is a sort of staged unauthorized biography, reduced into a Reader's Digest format, with bits of cutting wit, wistful regret, reverence for lost loves, worship for a brilliant mother, anger for a demanding and autocratic father. Finally, there is no real point to this two-hour solo, other than the display of Mulgrew's uncanny transformations." His full review can be found here.

"'Tea at Five' falls into the traps common to a one-actor stage biography," wrote Gordon Cox at New York City. "But it should still neatly satisfy those theatergoers for whom this sort of thing is their cup of tea." He believed Mulgrew didn't quite hit the spot, but seemed impressed with her performance. "Mulgrew who already looks a little like Hepburn, often manages to bring a fiery sense of inner life to her smooth physical impersonation, which captures the actress' husky upper-crust diction, her patrician chin, and, in the second act, the unsteady palsy of her head. ... [But] Mulgrew's performance, strong as it is, sometimes isn't enough to carry playwright Matthew Lombardo's script, which is always affectionate but often graceless." His full review, where he classes the play as a "one-woman brew, a bit decaffeinated, can be found here.

"With so much biographical information packed into it, seeing Tea at Five is much like reading Hepburn's life story, only with an actress reading it aloud," wrote William Stevenson at "Fortunately, the actress is Mulgrew, who is best known for her work on the TV series Star Trek: Voyager but who also has a theater background. Mulgrew doesn't bear that strong a resemblance to Hepburn — she doesn't have those striking cheekbones, for one thing — but she does get her upper-class New England voice down. She also exudes Hepburn's determination and drive in the first act as she strides around in her cream pantsuit." The full review can be found here.

Donald Lyons proclaims "Mulgrew, yes; 'Tea at Five' no" in his review at New York Post. "The best thing about this one-woman play is Mulgrew. She doesn't particularly resemble Hepburn — rather, she recalls '40s bombshell Ella Raines — but she echoes her with amazing accuracy, both vocally and kinetically. Mulgrew gets that exaggerated New England accent, which sounds the notes of arrogance and later humility; she can encapsulate the whole Kate scale in one phrase, one word, one vowel. And she's equally expressive in Hepburn's movement — liberated, beautiful, exhilarating." The full review can be found here.

Howard Kissel at New York Daily News felt Mulgrew portrayed Hepburn without even saying anything. "Mulgrew strides around the stage in a jaunty manner we would know was Hepburn's, even if she hadn't uttered a word. Her profile is remarkably like that of her subject. Although she is neither as tall nor as thin as the youthful Hepburn, and although she occasionally overdoes things, Mulgrew is a surprisingly believable approximation of the actress." The full review, where he says the play is "well-designed and directed, and splendidly acted" can be found here.

The full Kansas City Star article can be found here.

Thanks to Totally Kate for most of these links.

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