Review: Matt de Rogatis and Courtney Henggeler are the ‘cat’s pajamas’ in ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’

Courtney Henggeler, Matt de Rogatis and Frederick Weller
Courtney Henggeler, Matt de Rogatis and Frederick Weller. Photo Credit: Miles Skalli

Actors Matt de Rogatis and Courtney Henggeler (“Cobra Kai”) truly are the “cat’s pajamas” in the new Off-Broadway re-engagement of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at the Theatre At St. Clements, which was directed by Joe Rosario. #Powerjournalist Markos Papadatos has the recap.

They are able to take their audience on a trip through time to the sweltering Mississippi Delta, and they are able to bring the characters of Brick and Maggie the Cat to life. Equally noteworthy are Alison Fraser and Frederick Weller as Big Mama and Big Daddy respectively.

It is expertly staged by Rosario and it has many vivacious elements to it. “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” is set in the Mississippi estate of Big Daddy, a domineering cotton tycoon and patriarch of a viperous family in turmoil, on the dual occasion of his 65th birthday and “alleged” clean bill of health.

The play focuses on the tempestuous relationship between his grieving, alcoholic, former star athlete son, Brick, and Brick’s fiery, outspoken wife, Maggie the Cat, his scheming elder lawyer son Gooper and daughter-in-law Mae. Henggeler and de Rogatis have great chemistry together, which allows for more resonance. Christine Copley was fabulous as the witty and pregnant Mae, while Adam Dodway delivered as Gooper.

Brick drinks his days away and resists the affections of his wife. A reunion with his terminal father, Big Daddy, jogs his memories and unveils complex revelations for both father and son.

As they come together, everyone knows about Big Daddy’s terminal cancer diagnosis except for him and Big Mama. All of the actors in this re-engagement are able to sustain the audience’s attention for its entire lengthy duration.

This timeless show was made into a 1958 Oscar-nominated film starring Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie and Paul Newman as Brick, and in a 1976 TV movie starring Natalie Wood as Maggie, Robert Wagner as Brick, Laurence Olivier as Big Daddy, and Maureen Stapleton as Big Mama.

It is an explosive and unflinching story of sexual repression that highlights such pertinent issues as family, love, alcoholism, “mendacity,” alcoholism, a man’s quest for silence and serenity, and even mortality. It is a riveting melodrama that showcases this American family with a fresh and modern perspective while underscoring their dynamics and dysfunctions.

Matt de Rogatis is like fine wine, where he gets better as Brick each time he steps on the stage; moreover, it is evident that Maggie the Cat was the role that Courtney Henggeler was born to play (no offense to “Cobra Kai”). Joe Rosario did a magnificent job with its direction once again.

This production marks the play’s second Off-Broadway staging licensed by the Tennessee Williams Estate, and ironically enough, the first staging was by the same company (Ruth Stage) this past summer at the same venue (Theatre at St. Clements) with a few different cast members. The cast and crew are able to take the Tennessee Williams original, dust it off, modernize it, and subsequently introduce it to a younger audience.

This modern re-engagement by the Ruth Stage (starring Matt de Rogatis, Courtney Henggeler, Alison Fraser, and Frederick Weller) is mesmerizing, and it garners an A rating. A well-deserved standing ovation for all. Bravo.

For more information on the latest re-engagement of “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof,” check out the Ruth Stage official website.