Debra Monk shines in Broadway revival of ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’

Scarlett Johansson and Benjamin Walker in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Scarlett Johansson and Benjamin Walker in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

 

The most recent revival of Tennessee Williams’s classic play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof proudly boasts Scarlett Johansson as the star of the show. Her picture is to be found everywhere from the production’s website and advertisements to  Playbills and official posters of the show to the doors outside the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

And while Johansson is  captivating as Maggie, the true star of the revival is Debra Monk (Bridges of Madison County, The Devil’s Advocate) as Big Mama, Maggie’s mother-in-law, who reveals all of the character’s inner turmoil and pain to a heartbreaking degree in the heated third act.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a three-act play that tells the story of an extremely wealthy Southern plantation owner, Big Daddy (Ciaran Hinds), and the scandals that are rocking his dysfunctional family, which includes his hurting wife (Monk), his alcoholic son, Brick (Benjamin Walker), and Brick’s feisty and frustrated wife, Maggie.

As I walked into the theatre before the show, I realized that, though I consider myself a Tennessee Williams fan, I had never seen this show before. I knew the basics of the plot and the main characters, but I had no idea what else to expect, other than Southern accents and a lot of fighting, which seem to be the case in many of Tennessee Williams’ plays.

And while the accents and blow-ups lived up to my expectations, I was a bit disappointed in some of this production.

My main problems with this revival, directed by Rob Ashford, had to do with some of the unnecessary noises and sound effects. The dramatic music that introduced each of the three acts seemed a bit over-the-top and unfitting. The fireworks and thunder crashes distracted from the dialogue instead of highlighting it.

The large set, which is centered around Brick and Maggie’s bedroom, could also be a bit distracting at times. Similar to the noises and sound effects, the huge silhouettes of trees, the constant opening and closing of the doors surrounding the bedroom, and the flowing curtains took focus off of the characters and the dialogue.

Debra Monk, Ciaran Hinds, Scarlett Johansson and Benjamin Walker star in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Debra Monk, Ciaran Hinds, Scarlett Johansson and Benjamin Walker star in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

 

However, despite these problems and even the lukewarm reviews it received, I enjoyed the show overall. As I stated before, Monk is the real scene-stealer in act three when Big Mama shows her vulnerability and pain that she had been hiding. Johansson is a fine and fiery Maggie, and Walker plays a broken – literally and figuratively – Brick with the right amount of sadness and confusion that a character with a complicated past needs. Hinds shines as Big Daddy and owns the second act in his confrontation with Brick.

Though it might not be the most groundbreaking or incredible production, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is worth seeing. If the endless promotions of Scarlett Johansson don’t convince you, Debra Monk’s turn as Big Mama should.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof closes on March 30.

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3 Responses

  1. I will immediately grab your rss as I can’t find your email subscription link or newsletter service. Do you’ve any?
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  2. I love this play because it captures the disfunctionality (such a word?) of family. Nicely written.

  3. Thanks for the informative review…I’m going to go check it out!