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The ‘Cat’ Came Back

Brandon O'Neill and Laura Griffith, photo by John Cornicello

 

ACT pulls a Tennessee Williams classic from the company archives.

In 1955, Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof exploded onto Broadway, earning the playwright rave reviews, his second Pulitzer Prize and a secure place in the American artistic firmament. Ten years later, the play steamed up the stage of a brand new theatre company in drizzly Seattle, about as far away from Cat’s humid Mississippi Delta as you can get. It was the second production of the fledgling ACT Theatre, and 50 years later ACT is kicking off a milestone season by remounting this story of desperation, frustration, fading Southern glory and familial obligation.

“Opportunities like this don’t come along very often,” says Laura Griffith, who will slip into the silk chemise of Maggie at ACT this April. “So when I saw this role, I knew I had to bring out all the guns to get it.” Griffith is a longtime Williams devotee but has been primarily a musical theater actress, both on Broadway and on local stages since relocating to Seattle two years ago.

For her audition, Griffith memorized pages and pages of Maggie’s rapid-fire dialogue—and found the perfect audition dress. “There are a lot of references in the script to Maggie’s body, and she’s very conscious of the attention she gets because of her body,” Griffith says. “It was important to convey that physicality in the audition, the way that a glamorous woman moved in her clothes in those days.”

Cat was Williams’ sixth major work and rumored to be his favorite. It’s set on one hot summer night at the Pollitt family plantation, where Maggie and her husband Brick have come to celebrate the 65th birthday of Brick’s father, Big Daddy Pollitt. Big Daddy is troubled by the shaky relationship between his beloved son, a former football hero turned heavy drinker, and his beautiful, fiery wife. As the sweltering evening unfolds, gentility gives way to brutal honesty as the family’s discomfort with their unpleasant truths—greed, mendacity, repressed sexuality-—reaches a boiling point.

Along with John Aylward as Big Daddy and Marianne Owen as Big Mama, Griffith will star opposite Brandon O’Neill as Brick, only seven weeks after the two play their final show as a very different troubled couple—Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow in Carousel at the 5th Avenue Theatre.

“I didn’t even know he was up for the part until I heard we’d both been cast,” Griffith laughs. “We have great chemistry, but also we’ve become good friends and built up a trust that I’m grateful for. There is a certain comfort you need to have with a co-star to be able to go where you need to emotionally.”

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
April 17–May 17
ACT Theatre

*****

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