You’ve got just four more chances to catch Janis Stevens as Katharine Hepburn, and I suggest you hop to it — this performance is too good to miss.
The second play in American Stage’s Digital Theatre Series, Kate: The Unexamined Life of Katharine Hepburn ends its run this weekend. It’s a stage play by Rick Foster in which Stevens has appeared before, but it works exceedingly well in the digital sphere. That’s partly due to savvy direction by Benjamin Ismail, a beautifully detailed set by Jerid Fox and spot-on costuming by Gail Russell, and partly to the script itself, which I suspect works even better in this format than as live theater. There’s an intimacy, a feeling that Hepburn is just talking to you — her one-person audience in an attic full of memories — that would seem harder to pull off in a theater.
And boy, does Stevens pull it off. Portraying the iconic actress at the age of 92 on New Year’s Eve 1999, she nails the patrician diction and casual elegance that stayed with Hepburn well into old age. More important, she captures both the flinty New Englander whose single-minded determination enabled her to shuck off early doubts and forge a Hollywood career on her own terms, and the tender-hearted woman still mourning the losses of her beloved brother Tom, whose suicide still haunts her, and her long-time lover, Spencer Tracy, whom she stayed with through illness and an arrangement in which she was permanently the other woman.
Even if you’re a devout Hepburn fan, there’s much here that may surprise you — details about her formidably progressive parents, for instance, and her relationship with Tracy. But even if you’re not, she’s eminently worth spending some of your post-Thanksgiving weekend with — sort of like having the coolest grandmother in the world invite you up for a chat.
And speaking of chats: After Saturday’s performance (which like all of the performances is pre-recorded), there’ll be a live post-show chat with Stevens — a great chance to learn how she dove so deeply into the world of Kate.
Kate: The Unexamined Life of Katharine Hepburn: Sat. Nov. 28, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun. Nov. 29, 2 & 8 p.m. You can access the event when the Virtual Lobby opens 15 minutes before the show. Buy tickets here.