Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (The SOB Review)

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (The SOB Review) - Broadhurst Theatre, New York, NY

*** (out of ****)

OK, so the jazzy saxaphone motif is a bit forced.

Sure, the exact time setting is as clear as Mississippi mud due to Ray Klausen's ambiguous set design.

Yes, the spotlight effect offered by William H. Grant III on each flashback soliloquy is a tad annoying and unnecessary.

And it goes without saying that by making many of the play's sacrosanct lines ... well ... funny, Debbie Allen takes more liberties with Tennessee Williams' talents than a Cape Cod houseboy ever could.

But the net effect of Allen's direction lends this latest Broadway life for Williams' irascible Cat On A Hot Tin Roof with a certain revelatory sympathetic spin, providing each of its major players with more nuance and subtle shading than I ever thought possible. Say what you will about the certain aforementioned risks Allen has made in her direction, her overall gamble has largely paid off, particularly in drawing out fine to superb performances from her quartet of celebrated lead actors.

Chief among them is James Earl Jones' surprisingly compassionate Big Daddy, whose love for son Brick (Terrence Howard in an initially uneven, yet ultimately moving Broadway debut) should never, ever be in question. He may not appear until the Second Act, but once he does, Jones offers the type of booming, commanding presence that makes it difficult to look anywhere else.

However, you just can't help but do just that as Phylicia Rashad turns Big Mama into a tour de force. Her Big Mama is so much more than the blubbering simpleton she's often made out to be. When Rashad sheds real tears, she conveys both a desperate and intelligent woman who's not only grieving her husband's cancer diagnosis, but also anxiously wishing she could get back into his heart after being shunted aside for so long.

Then there's the proverbial Cat herself. The stunningly sensual Anika Noni Rose astounds as she digs deeply into the furthest recesses of her heart and soul. Unlike Ashley Judd's benign turn in the role in the 2003 revival, Rose makes her sex-deprived Maggie one you can't help but empathize with in her steely determination to preserve her marriage with Brick. She has us believing her attempts are based more on her love for him than the desire to maintain her life of luxury and privilege. In Maggie, Rose is in full bloom.

Not only does Allen's unusually humane Cat On A Hot Tin Roof offer a moving night at the theatre, it's also highly entertaining.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Is The F-Word Really Family Friendly? (April 11, 2008)
Did Cat Get Critics' Tongues Wagging? (March 7, 2008)
Opening Night: Cat Begins Fifth Life On Broadway (March 6, 2008)
The Onion: Ask The Stage Directions To Tennessee Williams' Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (February 11, 2008)
Black Cat Has More Than One Life (April 11, 2008)

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At 16 April, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Post Script: My apologies for posting this review so late, but by the time I did, Terrence Howard had already begun his hiatus from the show and will be out through May 6. Boris Kodjoe takes his place in the interim.

At 17 April, 2008, Blogger Esther said...

One of the things that's most interesting about this production is the extensive, and apparently successful, marketing campaign. I saw a big banner ad for "Cat on A Hot Tin Roof" in the Amtrak station in Providence last month. That surprised me, because I've never seen an ad for any other Broadway show. I went to the web site, which is pretty informative, and found a special promotion with Amtrak, as well as with Continental Airlines and restaurants. I guess it's working because the show is at over 90 percent capacity and the average ticket price is $82. So good for them!


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