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Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" at the Broadhurst Theatre
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Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" at the Broadhurst Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

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Tennessee Williams’
(Tennessee William Bio)
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

At the
Broadhurst Theatre
235 West 44th Street

Starring: James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad,
Anika Noni Rose, Terrence Howard
With: Giancarlo Esposito, Lisa Arrindell Anderson,
Lou Myers, Count Stovall, Bethany Butler,
Marissa Chisolm, Marja Harmon,
Heaven Howard, Clark Jackson,
Robert Christopher Riley, Skye Jasmine Allen-McBean

Directed by Debbie Allen
Set Design: Ray Klausen
Costume Design: Jane Greenwood
Lighting Design: William H. Grant III
Sound Design: John H. Shivers
Hair Design: Charles G. Lapointe
Casting: Peter Wise & Assoc.
Executive Producer: Front Row Productions
and Stephen C. Byrd with Alia M. Jones
Production Supervisor: Theatresmith, Inc.
Production Stage Manager: Gwendolyn M. Gilliam
General Management: NLA/Devin Keudell
Press: Springer Assoc. PR
Original Music: Andrew “Tex” Allen
Group Sales/Marketing: Marcia Pendelton/WTGP
Assoc. Producers: Beatrice L. Rangel and Terrie Williams

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 1, 2008

This scorching comedic drama, about an extended family “on the make”, that is, a wife seducing her husband for much needed sex, her mother-in-law seducing her own husband for much needed love, her brother-in-law and sister-in-law seducing the parents for a much needed inheritance, with a brood of kid-accomplices, breathes new life with this all African-American production. With James Earl Jones as Big Daddy, riddled with cancer but filled with fortitude, and Phylicia Rashad as Big Mama, a doting wife-servant, grandmother-gifter, and larger-than-life, lonely heart, the stage breathes energy and pathos. However, the emotional storms brew beneath the bonded marital skin of Maggie (Anika Noni Rose) and Brick (Terrence Howard), as Maggie’s hormones rage in searingly suppressed sexuality, while Brick’s guilt and anger drown in a foggy alcoholic ocean of whatever is left in the liquor cabinet.

Tennessee Williams’ lengthy play, with two intermissions, unfolds in Ray Klausen’s detailed Mississippi mansion, owned by the Pollitt family. In addition to the related adults above, a noisy and annoying brood of kids, including Sonny, Dixie, and Trixie, is used as emotional enticements to take over Big Daddy’s real estate, when the cancer has its way. Maggie is hot but childless, and she coddles and begs Brick to impregnate her, lifting her near-naked limbs about the bed and beyond. Her voice becomes shrill with need, and her soliloquies are choreographed like a devilish dance. But Brick, on crutches from a broken leg, has a shattered soul, and the Scotch becomes his liquid crutch, enabling the mental “click” he longs for, when reality becomes opaque. There is an assortment of servants, a doctor, and a Reverend, but the pervasive presence of the always pregnant Mae (Lisa Arrindell Anderson) and her obsessed and conniving husband, Gooper (Giancarlo Esposito), adds edge to this electric ensemble.

Anika Noni Rose, as Maggie, captivates the imagination and rivets our attention, with her bold body language and seamless, sultry verbosity. Jane Greenwood’s costumes add silky sexiness to this Cat poised to pounce. Terrence Howard, as Brick, is truly athletic, in his easy use of the crutches, even from the floor, and emotionally elusive, as his sexuality is questioned within the verbal fencing matches. James Earl Jones, as Big Daddy, is first paternal, then pathetic, and finally powerful, with a will to survive. Phylicia Rashad, as Big Mama, overcomes the blatant sexism of which this mansion reeks, as she gets her fondest wish, her husband’s needy love. Debbie Allen directs with an eye for natural nuance, as well as an eye for lighting effects, designed by William H. Grant III. Gerald Hayes, on saxophone, adds blues to the blues.

I intend to rent the 1958 MGM film with Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, and Burl Ives, to explore Williams’ scenario in different waters. Kudos to Tennessee Williams.

Terrence Howard and Anika Noni Rose
in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Terrence Howard and James Earl Jones
in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Lisa Arrindell Anderson, Phylicia Rashad,
Giancarlo Esposito, Count Stovall
in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at