“I'm trying to catch the true quality of experience in a group of people, that cloudy, flickering, evanescent, fiercely charged interplay of live human beings in the thundercloud of a common crisis,” Tennessee Williams said about his Pulitzer-Prize-winning drama, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. True to his penchant for creating memorable characters, the story here centers on a dying Southern patriarch, Big Daddy Pollitt, and his family's greed. It's set on a Mississippi plantation.
The family gathers at their Mississippi mansion for Big Daddy's birthday, aware that this may be his last. Big Daddy does not know, however, because the family's physician, as well as his eldest son Gooper, and his wife, Mae, decide to keep the fact concealed from him. Two other family members join the clan for the party: Brick, the youngest Pollitt, and his beautiful wife, Maggie.
Tensions mount as the various family member vie for attention and acceptance. And, ultimately, family secrets come raging to the surface in a tumble of accusations and lies.
The 1958 film version of the play is especially well known. It featured Paul Newman in the role of Brick, the ex-athlete son turned impotent drunk, and Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie, his wife. In the Live Arts production that opened last weekend, Mendy Hardy plays Maggie to Anselm Clinard's Brick.
"I am captivated by the many aspects of intellect in this text," says Fran Smith, who has taken on the formidable role of director for the show. "It has so many rich narrative elements and reflects the multiple personalities of Tennessee Williams. He allows the audience to know more than the characters do. That fascinates me."
Williams' play has been fascinating directors, actors, and audiences for almost half a century. A recent London production featured big screen star Brendan Fraser as Brick; watch for a rumored New York opening. In the meantime, though, call Live Arts for your tickets to their rendition. They'll be going as fast hot buttered biscuits.