This January, members of the Green Room Reviews staff traveled to New York City for a week-long immersion program as part of their studies in the Goldring Arts Journalism Master’s Program at Syracuse University. Throughout the trip, they attended a variety of Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. Here is one of the Green Room Reviewers’ thoughts on a show that caught their eye in the Big Apple.
NYC Review by Josh Austin
There is something different about the cat that is strutting across Broadway. In “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” Scarlett Johansson delivers a sordid, in-heat Southern belle unlike no other, a cat that doesn’t need to roll in satin sheets to prove her sex-starved desperation.
In Tennessee William’s famed play, the shameless arias of misery and loneliness are delivering this third revival in less than a decade with an unfamiliar, smoldering hiss—one that will get stronger as the play officially opens next week at the Rodger’s Theatre.
Johansson, now in a long line of famous Maggie the Cats, doesn’t need to lay half-naked in a bed. Instead, this feline’s over-bearing sensual nature is characterized by her suggestive touch and bust-filled lingerie. Presenting a raspy, blaring interpretation—so much so that when she screams, it’s pleasurable—Maggie is a cat stuck on an unbearably hot tin roof.
As with many of Williams’ plays, misery and desperation pay homage to the not-so-taboo nature of a fractured family. “Cat” presents a blatant charade of habitual disappointment and, of course, mendacity, further noticed with the intimidating Big Daddy (Ciaran Hinds), the brooding alcoholic Brick (Benjamin Walker) and accompanied by skilled direction from Rob Ashford.
But it’s Maggie that blossoms in the spotlight. Act 1 is dedicated to her unapologetic embarrassment of living with her possibly closeted husband, Brick, and her need to stay with him for money and, believably, love. Brick is guarded almost entirely. Distant due to the loss of his suspiciously close friend Skipper, he dreams of numbness. With a genuine distinction between reality and desired loneliness, Walker gives a palpable performance of his faded self.
It’s in Brick’s scenes with his ailing father, however, that the show is at its height. Hinds delivers an unnervingly fierce and fast-paced Big Daddy. He commands the second act with severe gusto and taunts the line between hero and villain so easily that his attitude becomes appealing and revered.
In the single, operatic set (designed by Christopher Oram) of Maggie and Brick’s bedroom, the transparent and overtly public nature of the destructive family seems wanted—a show that demands to be watched. The fading, giant double doors are always open and someone is always listening. Everything looks as if it hasn’t be touched in years, though family members walk in and out fervently.
It’s a bedroom that is lost with the family—desperate and lonely, like Maggie, screaming to be touched.