Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: Too Hot to Handle

Big Daddy, Big Mama, Brick, Gooper, Maggie and Mae Politt, 5 brats, assorted support players, preacher and doctor. Tennessee Williams’ masterpiece play, Pulitzer Prize 1955.

Secrets and lies, fodder for dysfunctional family, spare set, single room, with nary a place to sit. Shower head, to drown yourself in denial, and to admire the naked form as well.

Ironic, never admitted, due to the time of this play, because coming out wasn’t even remotely an option then…only option was heterosexual marriage. Even if that meant it was a fling for a try, and then deciding never more. Nope, not for Brick. Maggie is simply out of luck. Like a beautiful black cat, sleek, dying of love and hunger, in a loveless marriage, like a mouse terrified on a glue trap, caught up in the need to not be poor, desperately poor, anymore…because she was wounded mortally from that experience.

Brick drowns his reality in endless drink, from the floor, glasses, whiskey and a bag of ice. Never takes a break to go for a leak: the young have endless bladder capacity….

Gooper is the educated son, a lawyer, with a bitchy wife, Mae, who keeps sticking a sharp finger in the figurative eye of Maggie, for failing to produce children. No kids because hardly any sex, ever…even though she needs it, badly, because she has the misfortune of loving Brick. Any red blooded man would want Maggie: so lovely a cat is she. But Brick doesn’t; he wants to drown himself in drink, nothing more. Disillusionment, thy name is Brick…Almost no words for wife, Big Daddy, Big Mama…They talk up a red streak though, as he is the much favored son, and Gooper knows it, and resents them all for it.

And Big Daddy is sick, then not, then it gets settled which he is. And talk of massive inheritance, $90M, 28,000 acres of Mississippi farm, and big control issues over everybody, by selfish living dad, who has no use for anyone, but Brick, the effervescent drunk. It’s his 65th birthday, with talk of no more after this, macabre. Karma is biting him too.

Study people in desperate life turns, with threats of massive change, like a patriarch dying?? See how they all behave, and what they think, really, about each other, after 40 years of being with one spouse, and hating them, or a mere 4 years, and closing the gates of love, never to return. He wants Maggie to find another lover, to get her the hell off his unwilling, unwanting self.

They strip away the truth, piece by piece. And the nakedness is both literal and figurative. Can anyone really and truly see us as we are? And people who aren’t there, like Skippy, who was far more than anyone on stage, but dead now, and how that affected Brick. Suicide, thy name is love, true love, but with that, Brick dies inside, and begins his own slow suicide, by drunkenness. A click in his head is a blackout. He seeks it daily, to sleep…blissful dreams, in the arms of his true love. Who is beyond reach now.

Big Mama is disrespected and in denial. Lovely dress though, and lines. Mae is intensely disliked by virtue of her superiority, of her fecundity, of continuing the family line, but oblivious that the children of a disliked son are also automatically disliked as well. Gooper is bitter that he is not loved, obviously, and has always been so. He is the only likely one to inherit though, as a rabid drunk is not a good steward, however much he is loved. But pause, as Big Daddy and Big Mama realize, and the lack of progeny, of Brick and Maggie…

I feel comparatively blessed now, with my own family dysfunction. How about you? Maybe being without such a family is comparatively peaceful. Dysfunction, thy name is blackmail….Because when someone needs something quite desperately, they will do anything to get it…And you’d best steer clear of the oncoming juggernaut.


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