Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic
Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

The world fell in love with the movies about one hundred years ago. Instead of losing interest in what some said was just a passing fad, the movies and its actor/celebrities have instead grown from mere curiosities, to fascination, to an all-consuming addiction.

Hollywood became a movie studio-mecca, producing   ‘the ‘stuff that dreams are made of’, to quote Humphrey Bogart in “The Maltese Falcon”. Today, entertainment and entertainment news is one the highest grossing industries in America. Nostalgia in everything Hollywood has produced volumes of books, articles, and plays.

There are actors who became celebrities, then there are actors who became legends, and then there are the super ICON’s of Hollywood. Katharine Hepburn was a super ICON. She was also a very smart, gifted, alpha female actor who knew how to get what she wanted when it came to being cast in a movie.

“Tea at Five”, is a saucily written one-woman monologue about Hepburn by Matthew Lombardo based on Hepburn’s book “Me: Stories of my Life”. Nicely co-directed by Wendy Cohen and Marge Doyle, the play serves up anecdotes and facts (some of which may be apocryphal) on the career of the great Kate Hepburn, the only actor to win four Leading Role Oscars.

The challenge of bringing Ms. Hepburn to life on the stage of the Groves Cabin Theatre, in Morongo Valley, falls to Chicago-born local actor Susan Brundage. About ten years ago, Ms. Brundage discovered and fell in love with Lombardo’s one woman monologue play about Hepburn. In turn, she recently brought the play to the attention of Artistic Director and theatre founder Joy Groves, with an offer to portray Hepburn if Joy would produce it (Hepburn and Brundage are both red heads. It’s hard to say no to redheads).

Many people may not be familiar with some of the incidents in Hepburn’s star-crossed life and career. As the audience, we are made privy to many moments in her fascinating, and at times, her turbulent up and down movie and stage career. There is the twenty-seven year Spencer Tracy period that lasted until his death. Hepburn had few regrets when it came to her career. Her one great disappointment was her losing the role of Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind” to then unknown Vivien Leigh. But, no more spoiler alerts. One must come to the theatre to discover a Hepburn you only thought you knew.

Ms. Brundage is an engaging personality and actor whose smile can light up a large train station. Her interpretation of Hepburn is not only entertaining and winning, it’s also a tribute to her own memorization skills. She never leaves the stage except for the act break. It’s a true test of stamina and talent that produces an astonishing performance.

In the technical department the functional intimate drawing room set is uncredited as are the lighting and costume design, but is nevertheless, a perfect fit for the tiny 22 seat theatre. I suspect that co-directors Cohen and Doyle are responsible for most of technical elements.   Don’t let the size of the stage dissuade you from attending. The Groves Cabin Theatre is the most honored theatre by the Desert Theatre League, with more than 50 Desert Star Awards to their credit.

“Tea at Five” performs on Saturdays at 7 pm and on Sundays at 2:30 pm through June 12, 2016. Reservations are a must! Call the box office at 760-365-4523.