Film star Scarlett Johansson is back on the Great White Way playing Maggie in a new staging of Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", which opened Thursday night. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
"Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" is not easy to stage. The latest version taps into the play's power and poetry well enough, but Tennessee Williams' classic about a wealthy Mississippi family is also over-long and melodramatic. A great production can skirt over these hurdles, but it takes a lot of finesse. And judging by the three revivals that opened on Broadway in the last nine years, "Cat" seems to have lost some of its bite.
The character-driven play, running close to the hours with two intermissions, doesn't have much of a plot. The first act is virtually a monologue which requires Maggie, here played by Scarlett Johansson, to bellow, sulk, slink and bear her catty claws for 45 minutes. She's very good at all that, but the one thing that she was hired for, aside from her star status, is sex appeal, and that key element is curiously missing.
To be fair, as written, the object of her desire, hubby Brick, is alcoholic, questionably gay, and entirely disinterested in her, so she's essentially acting in a vacuum. If not entirely successful, she reveals a nice set of stage chops.
Rob Ashford's boisterous production certainly gets your attention. But the talented company doesn't seem to be entirely in sync. Southern accents come and go. Acting styles don't always mesh and the fishbowl set design, pretty as it is, can be distracting.
Individually, the cast is impressive, even when seemingly miscast. Classically trained Irishman Ciaran Hinds playing Big Daddy and the great Debra Monk as Big Mama are putting on quite a show, even though they're not terribly convincing as southerners. And Benjamin Walker as the aloof Brick is rock solid even when getting tossed all over the set. Emily Bergl and Michael Park are just right as the scheming Mae and Gooper
The lies and hypocrisy that keep society humming is the play's theme. That rings true, even if the production isn't quite as hot as it should be.