Theater Review: 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' -- 2 stars
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Tennessee Williams' 1955 bedroom drama "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," one of the sexist, most riveting American plays ever written, keeps receiving starry but disappointing Broadway revivals.
First there was a turgid revival in 2003 with Ashley Judd and Jason Patric, who were famously badmouthed by co-star Ned Beatty.
Next was an all-black production in 2008 with Anika Noni Rose and Terrence Howard that fizzled under Debbie Allen's direction despite a powerhouse performance by James Earl Jones.
Now comes a new staging directed by Rob Ashford, who is best known for musicals ("How to Succeed").
Scarlett Johansson, who earned a Tony for her excellent performance in the 2010 revival of "A View from the Bridge," plays the notorious Maggie the Cat, who grew up in poverty, married into a wealthy plantation family and is now desperate to hold her marriage together.
Maggie's husband Brick (Benjamin Walker) has turned into a depressed alcoholic following the suicide of his best pal Skipper. Brick blames Maggie for his death, as she had accused Skipper of harboring homosexual feelings for him.
With family patriarch Big Daddy (Ciarán Hinds) on the verge of death, Maggie must pull Brick together in order to secure the bulk of Big Daddy's estate.
This production generated bad word-of-mouth in previews for having an actor play the ghost of Skipper, who hovered silently around the stage. While that has thankfully been cut, what remains is an unconvincing, cheesy and cheap-looking production.
At least Johansson is terrific, bringing a sultry, ferocious spirit to the famous role. Particularly fascinating is how she distinguishes Maggie's rough and nasty behavior with Brick and her well-composed, dolled-up performance for the rest of the family.
Walker, sporting clean-cut looks and washboard abs, makes for a bland, one-dimensional Brick.
If you go: "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" plays at the Richard Rodgers Theatre through March 30. 226 W. 46th St., 800-745-3000, catonahottinroofbroadway.com.