by Lydia Jones Kerkhoffs
“Cat On A Hot Tin Roof,” written by Tennessee Williams is a brilliant play about a dysfunctional family that is forces to deal with hidden deceptions and hypocrisy. It has won a Pulitzer Prize and the Drama Critic Award. This powerful play was first produced in 1955 at the Morosco Theatre, and it was directed by the great director Elia Kazan. The issues that this play revolves around transcend time and region; Williams uses his craft to entertain, enlighten and bares men’s soul.
There was some contention between Williams and Kazan over the first written version of the play. Kazan praised work but he wanted him to revise the third act. Williams wished to appease the director but he did not want to compromise his art. (Williams, 124) He states,
The gist of Kazan’s reservations can be listed as three points. 1) He felt that Big Daddy was too important to disappear from the play. 2) He felt that the character of Brick should undergo some apparent mutation as a result of the virtual vivisection that he undergoes in his interview with his father in Act Two. 3) He felt that the character of Maggie, should be, if possible, more clearly sympathetic to an audience. (Williams, 124)
Furthermore, Williams and director Elia Kazan debated over some of the cast members in the first 1955 production of “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.”
Kazan saw the young Barbara Bel Geddes as a perfect Maggie The Cat, but Tennessee did not concur. As for the director’s choice for Big Daddy, Burl Ives, Tennessee could only observe, “He’s a singer, isn’t he?” (Smith, 17)
Set Apart Also, what sets the first production of Williams’s play apart from his earlier works is the fact that the play’s foundation is based on conversations the characters have that appear to be “real”, vital as well as entertaining. They do not preach and condescend. An audience can recognize elements of the characters in friends, family and in themselves. Williams appears to have creatively evolved as a playwright in his quest to unmask man’s illusions. He and Kazan have created a compelling drama with an uncomplicated set and a talented cast of performers. (Akinson)