Guthrie Gab: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
On February 1st, three Minnehaha students (Anna Scholl, Taylor Bye, and Lilly Thome) participated in an event at the Guthrie Theatre hosted by Minnesota High School Press Association and Journalism Educators of Minnesota. Their assignment was to attend a showing of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – a play that is no longer showing at the Guthrie Theatre – and write a review on what they saw. Students also received a backstage tour of the building and were given the opportunity to interview and listen to writer and editor, Quinton Skinner, who works as the Guthrie Theater’s Director of Communication
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a Pulitzer Prize-winning drama written by Tennessee Williams. It tells the story of a southern family, the Pollits, and their interaction with each other over the course of only a few hours. Brick Pollit, one of the main characters of the play, has grown into an alcoholic due to his mourning of his friend’s death. His wife, Maggie Pollit, is desperate when it comes to sexually reuniting with her husband, but she can’t seem to get him out of his depression. All while this is happening, Big Daddy Pollit, Brick’s father, is (unknowingly) dieing of cancer. This is a secret that is being kept from him by both Brick and Maggie.
Anna: So on to business, we saw Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, byTennessee Williams at the Guthrie Theater. There were a lot of motifs in the story – falsehood, death, sexuality – what theme stood out the most do you think?
Taylor: I’d have to say falsehood. It was the overhanging “mendacity” of this dysfunctional family that really made the story what it is.
Anna: I think so too. The deception in the story, I think, helped the other themes mature, in that the lies told and the secrets kept are what made the story progress.
Lilly: I would say the main motif to me was can you fully know the ones you love. Like how Maggie and Brick said they loved one another but did they really know one another?
Taylor: Do you think that the Pollits are an accurate picture of some families in America?
Anna: I think that the Pollits show an accurate picture of some families in America, because there are moments where each character represents a certain person in everyone’s family. Whether it be a father trying to help is son, a dying relationship, a lust for money, there are definitely certain aspects of the characters that we can connect with. But overall, I don’t believe, as a whole, they would be an accurate portrayal of an American family.
Lilly: The Pollits are a very complicated bunch of strong characters with many problems and in some scenes I do believe they could represent an American family. But I find that the many problems they have are to big for it to be realistic.
Taylor: I think this play really made sense of that whole cliche: “Things behind closed doors.” Starting with Big Daddy’s illness and ending with the whole Brick-won’t-sleep-with-Maggie thing. Maybe the whole family knew it, but it was the elephant in the room, the thing better kept unsaid. Everyone wanted to be normal except Brick and Big Daddy. Do you think that this desire to be ‘one great big happy family’ is one that every person, deep down, wants to fulfill?
Anna: To me, the idea of anyone being ‘one big happy family’ is like asking for perfection. Of course people can be happy with each other, but in the big picture, there will always be lament and there will always be dishonesty. Maybe what Tennessee Williams was aiming for while writing the play was to visualize this family (the Pollits) that’s just like anyone else, and the absurdity of trying to be perfect and what it could lead to – it’s something we can all fantasize about, but eventually not attain.
Lilly: I do think everyone desires this because everyone wants that kind of security blanket or protection that you get with ‘one great big happy family’. I think, personally, that when your home and with family, that is where you are the happiest and the best version of yourself.
Taylor: Why do you think this was Williams’ favorite play?
Anna: I was thinking the exact same question, actually, but I honestly don’t know how to answer it. Some of Williams’ plays are known as cultural landmarks (eg A Streetcar Named Desire), and it’s obvious that many of his works have risen to critical acclaim. Why Cat on a Hot Tin Roof would be his favorite, I do not know. What do you think?
Lilly: In my view, I think this is William’s favorite play because when you see this play every individual interprets the theme, plot, and etc. differently. I know that they can be similar but there are small differences that people pick up on and see in various ways. I also think this was his favorite play because it deeply taps into your emotions and can, quite frankly, disturb you at points. He really showed how the downfalls of human emotions can change that individual.
Taylor: Maybe he thought it was the most authentic. I mean, I felt like I could relate to being “disgusted with mendacity”. What do you think is the one thing people should take away from this play?
Lilly: One thing I believe you should take away from this play is how people can seem so calm from the outside but on the inside are itching to get what they desire, which connects to what I said before, do you really know the ones you love.