It was a surprise for my 60th birthday. I was taken to the Richard Rodgers Theatre on West 46st only knowing we were going to see a play.
I must first say this was only the third live performance of the revival of Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," directed by Rob Ashford, and called a preview performance, but still I loved it.
The talk in the papers so far centers around the Scarlett Johansson's portrayal of "Maggie," perhaps most prominently played by Elizabeth Taylor in the past. Ms. Johansson does get the attention of the audience as she undresses into a slip in the first few minutes of the first act.
OK, lets set the stage here, it was cold outside so the audience, sans a coat check, were surrounded by big coats, sweaters, etc. so it was warm. Now I have been known to fall asleep during plays or even bad movies, yet the words of Tennessee Williams were so vibrant and interesting that I never left my seat, even during the two intermissions. Ms. Johansson was smooth, and connecting with the crowd, which was surprisingly on the young side that night. But unlike Elizabeth Taylor, she was a softer "Maggie," and quite frankly Benjamin Walker, who played "Brick," was strong and deliberate, (I think better than Paul Newman was in the film, because Newman is always Newman first) and Ciaran Hinds was very connecting as Big Daddy, forceful, and even likable, more so then Burl Ives, who presented "Big Daddy" with a different dynamic.
The presentation this night was in three acts, whereas in the program it was listed to be in two acts, so it is still a work in progress. Yet I was focused in, like no other play I had even seen.
I am not sure why, but the stage actors connected with me, the story connected with me on the stage more so than on the silver screen. Now, make no doubt about it Scarlett Johansson's body was featured, and her attributes were well presented along with her acting, but they did not interfere with the sight lines of the dialogue and action. The sound has yet to be perfected, yet I didn't miss a single word, sitting 18 rows from the stage.
This play was not about Scarlett Johansson, it was about the genius of Tennessee Williams. Rob Ashford, the director, will over time move the players around the stage perhaps smoother than the performance I saw, yet he did have the lines coming out in a steady tempo that not only kept me awake, but actually leaning forward in my chair.
This play has different endings, so I won't say how this performance ended, but I had never seen this one before.
Lastly, Scarlett Johansson surprised me with her ability to connect with the crowd of all ages, and on the way out no one said she didn't deliver. And with the prices of today's tickets, that's amazing. Also no one ever left the theater during the play, and all the seats were still filled at the end. This play may only be running for a short time so do go see it because you leave the theatre feeling very "alive."