This most recent revival of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF by Tennessee Williams, another Pulitzer Prize winning drama from the 1950’s (PICNIC being another) starring Scarlett Johansson who won a Tony for her performance in Arthur Miller’s A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, doesn’t enhance the reputation of either person.
It’s a long, three act evening and I have been scratching my head to find something positive to write about the lukewarm production directed by Rob Ashford that scratches only the surface of the play with actors that deliver one dimensional performances.
The gossip along Broadway has is that Mr. Ashford’s original concept for CAT had to be abandoned to a nearby alley. He wanted to add some musical numbers and the appearance of Skipper as a ghost-like presence – the football buddy of Brick whose death causes Brick to find solace in numerous bottles of booze as opposed to the bed of his wife Maggie.
A bed he has not shared for some time. The ghost is gone but there are remnants of songs sung offstage and on. There are intermittent fireworks but they are not from the actors. There is a huge storm that passes as fast as it starts. Unfortunately the play slowly limps along.
What’s left is what I saw and it’s not a pretty picture. Literally. The enormous, operatic looking, cavernous bedroom set by Christopher Oram with its four, rickety floor to the highest of ceiling French doors swathed in gauzelike fabric all but dwarfs the diminutive Ms. Johansson whose garbled Southern dialect makes her almost monologue of Act I difficult to understand.
She comes on like a bitch in heat – angry at all those “no-neck monsters” the children of Brick’s brother Gooper (Michael Park) and his again pregnant wife Mae (Emily Bergl). She berates and complains and smokes while Brick drinks and listens and hobbles around with a cast on his broken ankle that he got jumping hurdles at 3a.m.
Brick is played by an underwhelming Benjamin Walker.
It is his father’s birthday, the coarse, red-neck Big Daddy (Ciaran Hinds). He has cancer but he thinks it’s simply a “spastic colon” – No one tells him the truth. In fact no one tells anyone the truth or they are in denial.
Act II is Big Daddy’s time to “shoot the breeze”, “go on a talking jag” and “run off at the mouth” trying to find out the REAL problem with Brick while Maggie all but fades into the background.
Could be his Big Mama (Debra Monk) who repeatedly adores her Greek God of a son – her “precious baby” while ignoring his brother Gooper.
Not much is resolved by Mr. Williams whose tale must have been shocking when it opened but is old-hat now. Mr. Ashford’s choice of having the little kids running around the bedroom with pistols chasing and shooting is a dubious choice as was the decision to revive this play.
www.CatOnAHotTinRoofBroadway.com Through March 30th
Photos: Joan Marcus
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