NEW YORK (Reuters) - Actress Claire Danes admitted it was a challenge to master a cockney accent for her Broadway debut, but winning over critics with her role in a play that inspired the musical "My Fair Lady" has proved more difficult.
Danes' performance as Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion," opposite Tony Award-winning actor Jefferson Mays as Henry Higgins, received mixed reviews on Friday.
The role of Eliza was made famous on the screen by Audrey Hepburn in 1964.
The New York Post described Danes' transformation from a poor, uneducated cockney flower girl into a society lady as "handsomely done," but The New York Times said her "game, conscientious portrayal doesn't make much of an impression."
"Ms Danes works hard at maintaining audibility," wrote New York Times reviewer Ben Brantley. "But the effort pre-empts her relaxing into anything like spontaneous emotions ... And there's no fire in her final face-off with Henry."
Yet the New York Daily News said Dane's performance in "Pygmalion," which premiered on Broadway in 1914 and was adapted into the musical "My Fair Lady" in 1956, was her best work since her roles in the 1990s television series "My So-Called Life" and the 2005 film "Shopgirl."
"'Pygmalion' all but sings without any music. I could have watched all night," wrote reviewer Joe Dziemianowicz.
New York Post reviewer Clive Barnes said Danes "gently but firmly dusts the floor with the Broadway professionals around her," but he summed up the overall production as "dull."
The Washington Post described Dane's portrayal as "plain vanilla" and "too placid a creation."
Danes, 28, most recently seen in the big budget fantasy drama "Stardust" and who played opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the 1996 film version of "Romeo and Juliet," told Reuters television in a recent interview it was a "process" to master the accents for "Pygmalion."
"I've done a British accent in "Stage Beauty" and more recently in "Stardust." It's kind of in my muscle memory, but cockney is a whole different game and just when I think I conquered one, then I have to do the other," she said.
"Pygmalion" is scheduled to run for two months.