Gadget by The Blog Doctor.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Yesterday we saw the MTC production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Playhouse. We had to change the booking so we were not in our usual row C seats, instead we watched the play from the Circle. This might explain why I enjoyed the play less than I expected to. A play loses some of its power and immediacy when watched from high up and to the back of the theatre.

It is of cause written by Tennessee Williams.
Born to Cornelius and Edwina Dakin Williams on March 26, 1911, in Columbus, Mississippi, Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams was amply prepared for writing about society¹s outcasts. His mother was an aggressive woman, obsessed by her fantasies of genteel Southern living. His father, a traveling salesman for a large shoe manufacturer, was at turns distant and abusive. His older sister, Rose, was emotionally disturbed and destined to spend most of her life in mental institutions. He remained aloof from his younger brother, Dakin, whom his father repeatedly favored over both of the older children. Who could have fortold that this shy, sickly, confused young man would become one of America's most famous playwrights.
The conflicts between sexuality, society, and Christianity, so much a part of Williams's
drama, played themselves out in his life as well ... spent ... as
a wanderer - a sexual and religious outcast.

Source from this bio.

Many aspects of Williams' life homosexuality , mental instability, deception, a powerful and manipulating parent and alcoholism, are major themes in this play.

Williams is often placed in a genre of writing called Southern Gothic, which according to Williams captured "
an intuition, of an underlying dreadfulness in modern experience".
This style often involves using deeply flawed, disturbed, even grotesque characters to highlight unpleasant characteristics of Southern Society.

The patriarch of this wealthy (planter) family, Big Daddy has clawed his way to economic success at the expense of his family's emotional health. The youngest son Gooper and his wife Mae only attend the family party to scheme their way to Big Daddy's fortune. The eldest son, his father's favourite, is a former football star who has taken to the bottle in response to the death of his friend Skipper, for which Brick might be partly responsible. The family doctor is involved in a "soothing lie" about the extent of Big Daddy's illness, and the preacher is a fawning and spineless grotesque. Maggie, Brick's wife, was born into a poor family and married Brick only to find herself a relationship with a man who
doesn't love her and whom she loves; she is tries desperately to hold on
to him.

Brick's summary of the dramatic situation of the play is: "Mendacity ... a system that we live in. Liquor is one way out an death's the other."

There is some unresolved ambiguity in Brick's character. Was Brick's shocked reaction to Skipper's confession of love to him for the obvious conventional reasons or is Brick denying a suppressed homosexuality?

The play ends on an ambiguous note. Maggie takes Brick to bed and he might or might not be responding as the play ends. Knowing Williams the liklehood is that this will end in disaster, but the hopeful possibility is left open.

This is a Pullitzer Award winning play, and I have appreciated it more after thinking about the experience and feel more positively about it than when I left the theatre.

Essie Davis, who beautifully played Maggie, in the publicity photo

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