Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The calla lilies are in bloom, Mr. Kim

Last night, I had the good fortune to see Tea at Five, in which Kate Mulgrew portrays Katharine Hepburn. The show was in town for just a week in Baltimore, and D. had gotten tickets to the opening night and the gala premiere afterward as Christmas presents for himself, me and his friend V.

I've always loved Kate Mulgrew: I remembered her as "Mrs. Columbo." I saw her in Titus Andronicus in Central Park, and she was great. I thought she was an excellent selection to play Captain Janeway on Voyager - my favorite of the Trek series. I always called it "Katharine Hepburn in space" because Kate Mulgrew has that same kind of strong quality and interesting, deep-but-reedy voice. And now, here she was, one Kate playing another.

Mulgrew's physical transformation was really striking: the first act is set in 1938, and the second in 1983. In the first, Hepburn is recovering from a string of flops, and hoping to be cast in Gone With The Wind. When the second act begins, people literally gasped when Ms. Mulgrew turned around - she looked just like the Kate Hepburn of On Golden Pond. Eerie.

But beyond my great respect for Kate Mulgrew and Katharine Hepburn - I am fascinated by movies or plays in which actors play other actors - especially when both are celebrities. Tea at Five is one of the few examples of this genre which are actually good. Most are terrible - deliciously, deliciously terrible. I was sad to miss the recent TV movie about the making of Dynasty. in which Alice Krige, perhaps best known as the Borg Queen, played another Borg Queen: Joan Collins.

V. and I had a discussion about whether Alice Krige was creepy in every role she's ever played: we both remembered her in Ghost Story (creepy) and of course her Borg Queen star turn (creepy, creepy, creepy.) I can't imagine Alice Krige in a warm, sunny role. Perhaps Krige means Kreepy in another language.

Of course, V. had a tape of the Dynasty movie, so I'll get to see it after all.

At the gala reception afterward (held in a gargantuan, lofty hall made to feel more intimate by a row of potted palms standing sentry) I got to meet the playwright briefly, who was very charming and well-spoken. Then Ms. Mulgrew entered, and I got to lob my nerdy accolades ("I saw you in Titus Andronicus!") I had joked around with D. that I would actually give in to nerdiness of GalaxyQuest proportions ("When you and Chakotay were marooned on that planet ... did you do it?") but of course I never would. To my horror, I saw that she had some fans who apparently follow this show around just for that very purpose. Ms. Mulgrew was very sweet and attentive to the people who had come to the reception. She does a tremendous job in the play, which I'm sure takes a huge toll on her voice. I hope to see her on stage again.

Now onto some of my favorite actors-as-celebrities-genre examples:

-- the "Three's Company" TV movie that was on not too long ago, with the Glad Bag girl as Janet.
-- the similar movie about Charlie's Angels. If I'm not mistaken, poor Wallace Langham appeared in both, as agent Jay Bernstein.

But the best-slash-worst I think was the Annette Funicello movie, in which Eva LaRue (perhaps better known as brilliant neurosurgeon/amnesia victim Doctor Maria Santos Grey on All My Children) played Annette Funicello, with other friends of Annette's such as Frankie Avalon, Dick Clark and Shelley Fabares appearing as themselves. It was a real mindbender.

I'm hoping for "Behind the Scenes: The Unauthorized Story of The Facts of Life" starring Lindsay Lohan as Lisa "Blair" Whelchel and Tina Majorino or Alison Pill as Mindy "Natalie" Cohn. Perhaps "That's So" Raven Symone could play Kim "Tootie" Fields ... and throw in Kathy Kinney (Mimi from The Drew Carey Show) as Charlotte "Mrs. Garrett" Rae.

You can taste the deliciousness.


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