August 11 - September 25, 1983, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF played at the Mark
Taper Forum in Los Angeles, California. In this play by Tennessee Williams, James Morrison
played the role of Brick. Kirstie Alley played Maggie, and Pat Hingle played Big Daddy.
is worth "close on $10 million in cash an' blue-chip stocks, outside, mind you, of
28,000 acres of the richest land this side of the valley Nile!" But this is not
"old money." Big Daddy started in the fields and worked his way up. The Pollitts
are nouveau riche. Their self-presumed Southern gentility is phony and tacky and as
pretentious and empty as Sister Woman's saccharine smile.
Jose Quintero's masterful vision the Pollitt family is more real and honest than we have
seen them. Some of this may be due to Tennessee Williams' continual rewriting of his plays
and to the current addition of some dialogue which has never been used before. Thankfully
missing are many of the histrionic fireworks so that the bones of the play and the family
take on a power and intensity from what is behind the masks of the Pollitts, and their
flesh becomes searingly real. Quintero has cast with an alchemist's magic and has
orchestrated his company to symphonic proportions, using the three acts as movements
building to crescendos of ensemble perfection.
not the "cat" (read "bitch") many actresses make of her. She is the
most honest member of the family and most honorable. Her momentarily unrequited love for
Brick echoes Big Mama's enduring affection for Big Daddy. And as Brick will surely become
Big Daddy, Maggie will become Big Mama. These qualities are beautifully defined by Kirstie
Alley as a richly realized survivor trying to rise above being an "ex-Cotton
Queen" and struggling out of lifelong poverty. She almost comprehends Brick's torment
but wouldn't admit it if she didn't.
You wouldn't guess Alley is a stage novice. "I see Maggie somewhat
differently than other people see her. Maggie's cat-like quality comes out of her
persistence and desperation. As opposed to being 'catty' just for the sake of being
'catty.' Or just being sexy for the sake of being sexy. She has a good reason for being
sexy because she's trying to seduce her husband, who has turned away from her."
The role of Maggie is the professional stage debut for Ms. Alley, who is best known as the
half-Vulcan, half-Romulan character, Lt. Saavik, in STAR TREK II. James Morrison comes to
the Taper from the L.A. Stage Company's current production of CLOUD NINE.
James Morrison's Brick is patient in waiting for his "click" and gentle in his
denial of Big Daddy. He finally appears assured in his fearless descent into oblivion when
he ties the knot in the rope he's at the end of and begins to hold on.
Morrison is not new to the stage, but he is new to this one. "Just being at the Mark
Taper stage is a tremendous opportunity in itself. I've never worked there before, and
it's a wonderful company. You could call this the culmination of a lifetime. The majority
of people in town haven't seen my work because I've always gone on as an understudy. With
CAT, I'm going to be exposed to a lot of people. I just know that I'm riding a wonderful,
gigantic wave right now. And there's no telling what might happen."
Pat Hingle is probably the best Big Daddy in our memory, frighteningly close to the
nouveau riche Southern gentleman we have known. There is a depth to this man which has
never been allowed the light of day, and that is where his loneliness lies. It is perhaps
this depth he is trying to salvage in his son.
The other "ex-Cotton Queen," Mae, is the opposite side of Maggie's coin just as
Gooper is the opposite of Brick's. They will always be dirt farmers dressed up for Sunday.
Patricia McCormack is a perfect Sister Woman with too- perfectly coiffed hair and a
glistening grin belying the fearful avarice beneath. Peter Jurasik (BABYLON 5) plays
Gooper just as right, a snot-nosed greedy Delta Lawyer who was a snot-nosed greedy kid,
which is why Big Daddy never liked him.
John Lee Barry's marvelous, almost opulent, bed-sitting room reeks of Dixie pretension,
and it is gently and realistically lit by Marilyn Rennegel.
With the new material -- Quintero's legerdemain and the fine ensemble work of this company
-- this version should win another Pulitzer Prize.
Of Quintero Alley says, "He just molds you and gives you a direction and still lets
you go with what you have. After a while, you feel like you're doing it the way Williams
would want it."
Morrison adds, "Working with Jose is a dream come true. Someone asked me the other
day to describe the experience. Well, it's like everything I've done since I started
acting has led to this. Quintero's simply awe-inspiring. Some of the things he will say or
the insights he has into the human condition are breathtaking. It's simply all there. All
we have to do is tell the story." Synopsized from reviews by T. H. McCulloh for
Drama-Logue and Ed Kaufman for Evening Outlook, Joe Smilor for Whittier's Daily News
"Morrison's power opens like a mushroom
cloud, particularly in the evening's most striking scene, the long conversation between
Brick and Big Daddy, in which Brick can't accept Big Daddy's 'understanding' of his son's
relationship with Skipper." T.H. McCulloh
Award: James Morrison won the Drama-Logue Award for his portrayal of Brick.
for a James Morrison interview about Cat On A Hot Tin Roof 1983