Heading the cast are Ashley Judd, as the frustrated, beautiful and determined Maggie the Cat; Jason Patric as her willfully alcoholic, unresponsive husband Brick; and Ned Beatty as the blustery and blunt redneck millionaire Big Daddy. The production also stars Margo Martindale as the cowed, but loving Big Mama; Michael Mastro as Brick's neglected brother, Gooper; and Amy Hohn as Gooper's baby-making, grasping wife Mae.
Previews began Oct. 9, under the direction of Anthony Page. Bill Kenwright produces the limited engagement.
The current mounting uses the script employed in the 1974 Broadway production. The play's third act has fluctuated from production to production. Williams adjusted his first draft after original director Elia Kazan demanded changes in the depictions of the three main characters. Both versions of act three were featured when the play was published. Williams revisited the script in 1974, created a new text which held on to elements of both the first and second drafts. Among the major changes: Big Daddy's return in the third act (he did not in the first version), and an increased frankness in the language.
The family drama takes place in the mansion of Southern mogul, Big Daddy, where, as Brick puts it, "mendacity is the system we live in." Daddy is accustomed to being the master of all he surveys, but will soon be felled by cancer—a fact his family is keeping from him. His favorite, but fallen son Brick and Brick's unhappy wife Maggie, as well as scheming brother Gooper and Mae, have all come to celebrate Daddy's 65th birthday. Brick has neglected his wife's bed in favor of the bottle ever since a long-ago, fateful encounter with his best friend and football teammate, Skipper. As a result, he and Maggie have gone childless and heirless—an important point to Big Daddy—while Gooper and Mae keep turning out little "no necked monsters." The actions takes place in real time over the course of one evening.
The play is firmly divided in three acts and is played with two intermissions—a novelty these days. The first act is commonly thought to belong to the actress playing Maggie, while Big Daddy dominates the volcanic second act. Daughter of famed singer Naomi Judd, Ashley Judd was recently seen as Tina Modotti in the Miramax film "Frida." Her other motion picture credits include "Ruby in Paradise," "Natural Born Killers," "A Time to Kill," "Kiss the Girls," "Double Jeopardy," "Someone Like You," "High Crimes" and "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood." Judd made her New York stage debut in the 1994 Roundabout Theatre production of Picnic.
Patric has starred in such films as "The Lost Boys," "After Dark, My Sweet," "Rush" and "Your Friends and Neighbors." The actor will make his Broadway debut in the Williams play.
Beatty — who reprises his Olivier Award-nominated West End role — is also primarily a film actor with such credits as "Deliverance," "Network," "Superman," "The Big Easy" and "Nashville" behind him.
Martindale appeared off-Broadway in Always Patsy Cline and Steel Magnolias. Mastro is best remembered as the jazz musician with the garbled diction and thick glasses in Warren Leight's Sideman. Hohn is a member of Off-Broadway's Drama Dept. And has appeared in the company's The Country Club.
Director Page received a Tony Award for his direction of the Broadway revival of Ibsen's A Doll's House Other credits include the world premiere production of Edward Albee's Occupant, the current West End production of The Master Builder starring Patrick Stewart and the Bill Kenwright 2001 production of Cat on A Hot Tin Roof with Brendan Fraser, Frances O'Connor, Ned Beatty, Gemma Jones, Abigail McKern and Clive Carter.
The role of Maggie was originated onstage by Barbara Bel Geddes in the 1955 production. Elizabeth Ashley played the part in the 1974 Broadway revival and Kathleen Turner was Broadway's most recent Maggie the Cat in 1990. Burl Ives famously created the part of Big Daddy, with the folk singer forging a new career as a dramatic actor in the process. Fred Gwynne was the bellowing patriarch in 1974 and Charles During won a Tony for the part in 1990. As for Brick, slightly less famous players have filled the troubled, former football player's shoes. Ben Gazzara (currently in Nobody Don't Like Yogi) was the first to drown his sorrows. Keir Dullea was Ashley's husband and Turner tempted Daniel Hugh Kelly.