Total Rating: 
October 9, 2003
November 2, 2003
March 2004
New York
New York
Bill Kenwright
Theater Type: 
Music Box Theater
Theater Address: 
239 West 45th Street
Tennessee Williams
Anthony Page

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, which explores family relationships, sexuality, and even life and death, is one of Tennessee Williams' best plays. Broadway now has, except for a few performances, an inept production of the play running. Poor Ashley Judd gives it her all but is basically betrayed by her director, Anthony Page, as she, in Act One, recites all her lines with verve and energy and no subtext. How could he allow that? Saying all the words is not enough on Broadway. Her performance passes boredom into pain -- she stirs no empathy and no passion; it's only noise.

The only life in Act one is Margo Martindale as Big Mama. Jason Patric is okay, but his mannered underplaying of the role of the depressed, alcoholic husband doesn't really cut it for me. Continual withdrawal, much of it rather lifelessly, seems to me to be the wrong choice.

Thank goodness for Ned Beatty. He comes on as Big Daddy in Act Two and is a breath of fresh air: strength, power, humor. He's a dynamo that lifts the production to the height it deserves, going far beyond the capability of folk singer Burl Ives, whom I saw do the original.

Amy Horn and Michael Mastro are fine as Sister and Gooper, and Judd is good enough in Act Three where she has no long speeches. The set, by Maria Bjornson, looks like a bunch of sticks with one great flaw: the big bed, upstage center, with a white bedcover and light constantly shining on it is either the misconception of Bjornson, or the director, Page, or the lighting designer, Howard Harrison. It is distracting, and if it is intended as a metaphor, the light could be lowered after we get it. Still, the play stands -- Williams' poetic language, Southernity and insight into the human heart with its family conflicts, rivalries and mendacity is still a great piece of writing. Save the $96 ticket price, and go rent the film with Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman.

Ashley Judd (Maggie), Jason Patric (Brick), Ned Beatty (Big Daddy), Margo Martindale, Michael Mastro, Amy Hohn
Set: Maria Bjornson; Costumes: Jane Greenwood; Lighting: Howard Harrison; Sound: Christopher T. Cronin; Orig Music: Neil McArthur. Casting: Pat McCorkle
Richmond Shepard
Date Reviewed: 
November 2003