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.

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.

Within 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.

Maggie is 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.

Click Here for a James Morrison interview about Cat On A Hot Tin Roof 1983

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