The reviews are in for ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ at the Guthrie

The Guthrie Theater is staging Tennessee Williams’ classic drama “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” through February 26. While reviews are generally very positive, details vary widely. Is the play steamy, or does it fizzle? Is the first act slow, or is it a totally absorbing show from the get-go? It all depends on which review you read…

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Peter Christian Hansen as Brick amd Emily Swallow as Maggie

Photo by Michael Brosilow

From Rohan Preston at the Star Tribune:

Tensions detonate like fireworks for Big Daddy’s birthday in Lisa Peterson’s well-paced and -designed “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

Her atmospheric, expertly acted production of the Tennessee Williams classic, which opened over the weekend in Minneapolis at the Guthrie Theater, is a combustible collision of avarice, desperation and mendacity in a world where women get fulfillment through their husbands and resources are concentrated in the hands of one very profane man.

From Ed Huyck at City Pages:

It’s a production that takes its own sweet time getting started, but it opens the throttle at the start of a long, thrilling second act and rides high until the end. This combustible back half–complete with offstage fireworks and a thunderstorm–makes all the setup in the first act worth the wait.

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David Anthony Brinkley as Big Daddy

Photo by Michael Brosilow

From Dominic P Papatola at the Pioneer Press:

… in Lisa Peterson’s staging, all of this drama flickers more than it flares. The first half of the play is so given over to Maggie that, particularly in this staging, it frequently feels like a single long monologue punctuated by the occasional divertimenti of other characters. It’s a gigantic responsibility, and one simply too large for the shoulders of Emily Swallow. She wraps herself around Williams’ rococo dialogue well enough, but she doesn’t bring the passion the role needs.

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Emily Swallow as Maggie

Photo by Michael Brosilow

From Janet Preus at HowWasTheShow.com:

Peterson’s direction seemed to be more a collection of concepts, rather than a clear vision of the overall effect. Her use of Brick’s crutch, for example, was overdone, as was Maggie literally chasing him around the bedroom.

Over fifty years have passed since this play premiered and a lot has changed; sexual identity questions are at least discussed openly, and doctors today would not dream of lying to a patient about his diagnosis. Assuming one can view the crises in this light, the universal truths about love, friendship, family bonds, sexuality, even life and death itself – the larger questions that made this play great – have not lost their relevance. If you have even the slightest interest in Williams, this period and this style of theater, you really should make an effort to see this production.

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From Jay Gabler at TC Daily Planet:

The character Brick spends much of Tennesee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof seeking “that click” in his head: that moment when he’s finally drunk enough to be able to ignore his yowling inner demons. There’s a click of sorts in theater as well: when a production is working so well that as an audience member you become totally absorbed in its universe. That click comes as soon as the lights go up on the Guthrie Theater’s new production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which doesn’t release its grip until the play’s final bittersweet embrace.

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From Ellen Burkhardt at Minnesota Monthly:

It’s this premise of denial and desperation that fuels the play. And when a production of Cat is done well–when the poetic monologues and intense dialogues are properly executed; when the set and staging are given as much thought as the accents and timing; when the audience sits in suspenseful attention, willfully clinging to every last word and expression–it’s clear to see why it continues to dazzle audiences 57 years after its premiere and Pulitzer Prize win. This is one such production.

Have you seen Cat on a Hot Tin Roof? If so, what did you think? Let me know.

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