de Rogatis, Courtney Henggeler, and Frederick Weller in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Photo by Ismaeel Skalli
on a Hot Tin Roof
Williams grappled with his many demons, internalized homophobia and alcoholism
being the most monstrous. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, for which he was
awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1955, is an unabashed look at his afflictions.
Matt de Rogatis portrays a phenomenal Brick Pollit. He is a
closeted, tortured gay man who is trapped in a marriage to Maggie
(Courtney Henggeler who has TV credits to her name) that has eroded into a
sham. One of the themes of this play is mendacity. This couple’s relationship
is the exemplar of such dishonesty.
The riveting De Rogatis is tasked with the difficult job of depicting a
character who is perpetually plastered—he is seen pouring alcohol down his
throat throughout the play. He is further encumbered by needing to rely on a crutch
to get around the stage. (He broke his ankle in a nostalgic attempt to recreate
his glory days as a handsome, virile athlete by jumping hurdles on the high
school‘s sports track).
de Rogatis in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Photo by Max Bieber
Any college kid taking Acting 101 can appreciate the tremendous disadvantages
such impediments as these present in order to execute a role. De Rogatis is a
pro. He stumbles, falls and spaces out from the drink in such a convincing
manner that his Brick is made manifest in grand style.
Brick is the younger and favored son of two boys fathered by Big Daddy (Frederick Weller), a wealthy plantation owner.
Brick drinks excessively because he is haunted by his latent, internalized
homophobia—exacerbated by the suicide of Skipper, who outright loved Brick.
They were best friends and football teammates. The are no spoiler alerts here.
Let it suffice to say that there is more to this story and Maggie has a part in
Maggie, Brick’s wife, is a self-proclaimed cat on a hot tin roof. Her stage
presence is spellbinding. She uses the term “cat” to describe herself because
she is easily irritated and restless. The hot tin roof is a metaphor for her
marriage to Brick who is not sexually attracted to Maggie despite the fact that
she is gorgeous.
Hengler and Matt
de Rogatis in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Photo by Max Bieber
is a trophy wife—the object of heterosexual male desire. She flits around the
stage in red lingerie accentuating her curvaceous body. Through highly
sexualized and seductive references to how desirable she is to Big Daddy, who
she hints is a lech toward her, she tries to seduce a very drunk and
Maggie has not conceived a child because of Brick’s disdain, or more precisely
his disgust ,for Maggie despite the fact that she is truly a hot woman. She
loves Brick despite his contempt for her but also wants to have his child to ensure
a hefty inheritance when Big Daddy, who has been diagnosed with cancer, dies.
Everyone except Big Daddy and his wife, Big Mama, (Alison Fraser), know his diagnosis. Alas, here is another obvious
example of mendacity.
The backdrop for the play is centered around Big Daddy’s 65th birthday party,
with fireworks exploding on the river to celebrate the tycoon and a storm
brewing in the background as well. Christian Specht (Lighting Design), Matthew
Imhoff (Scenic Design) and Tomas Correa (Sound Design) take credit for these
elements which add to the ambiance in making the setting in a mansion come to
de Rogatis and Frederick Weller in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Photo by Max Bieber
If there are any faults with this production, casting is a glaring
Frederick Weller does not embody the stage presence of the character known as
Big Daddy. Weller is too young for the part and could have easily been taken
for Brick’s contemporary. He also does not offer a commanding demeanor. A
larger and older man would have been better suited to play the captivating Big
Daddy role. In short, Weller is a weak Big Daddy.
Two other casting blunders take the form of the two other actresses in this
production. Alison Fraser, who plays Big Mama, has the acting chops for this
part. However, the references to Big Mama, Brick’s mother, are that she is fat
and old. Alison Fraser is an extremely petite and delicate woman who is light
as a feather. She does not at all capture the form of a robust, old and fat
Finally, Mae (Christine Copley) the wife of Brick’s older brother Gooper (Adam
Dodway) who could have waxed more bombastic in putting forth his avarice for
Big Daddy’s inheritance, is also miscast.
Weller and Alison Fraser in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Photo by Max Bieber
Mae is referenced as being a similar kind of woman to Maggie. While it is
unclear if the reference is about her appearance or her personality, the
pregnant Mae is neither breathtakingly beautiful nor is she seductive.
Furthermore, she definitely does not exude the sassiness of Maggie, the
cat. While her acting is appropriate, her appearance and affectations do not
encompass the character.
In mentioning Mae, the theme of mendacity once again comes into play here.
Gooper and Mae’s greed toward Big Daddy’s fortune is shameful.
Furthermore, as previously stated, Big Daddy’s cancer is intentionally kept
hidden from him and Big Mama. It is important to reiterate that this is
clearly another mendacious tactic employed by this dysfunctional
alcoholic family who lives their lives in a miasma of falsehoods.
In an effort to be thorough and fair in writing this review it would be remiss
not to mention Milton Elliott (Rev. Tooker) and Jim Kempner (Doc Baugh). Though
their parts were minor, they both did an appropriate job of acting out their
This revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof leaves the audience with thrills
and titillation begging for more. The genius of Tennessee Williams’ play is in
an artistic, interwoven mosaic of life’s intricacies. The man had so much
to say about the torment and foibles of the human condition. However, despite
the fact that this masterpiece chronicles the interactions of wealthy
Southerners, its poignancy and significance are at the core of this inescapable
phenomenon which we call life.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
at St. Clement’s
423 West 46th Street, New York, NY 10036 (between 9th and 10th Avenues)
•Runtime: 2 hours and 45 minutes with an intermission
•Through March 31, 2023
•For Tickets: https://www.ruthstage.org/cat