Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Made the mistake last year of taking a "my-choice" subscription to the theater. It means I can choose any 10 plays I want. The problem is, I have to choose rather far in advance, and knowing when I will be free is not easy. I actually liked the "take-what-you-get" subscription. They announce it to you 6 weeks in advance, and you get one option to move the date. Otherwise, you just put it on your calendar, the tickets come in the mail and you go. I've had some great seats and plays, and some really, really awful ones. I think it was after we got the third "Boulevard-Theater" in a row that we cancelled that, though.

Anyway, we've been trying to get tickets to the German version of Tennessee Williams "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" playing at the Lehniner Schaubühne - been sold out since it opened. Last night was the night (and we even met a fellow handball club member, seems we all have to get some culture after all that sports excitement).

The audience is not let in until a few minutes before the start, and the noisy children (the "neckless monsters", TW does have a good feeling for words!) are on the stage already singing. They are singing in English, but they are singing the song backwards. Don't know if there is a point to this, but in case anyone reads this from the play, the words go: "I love the mountains, I love the rolling hills, I love the flowers, I love the daffodils, I love the fireside, when all the lights are low, Boom-dee-ah-da, Boom-dee-ah-da, Boom-dee-ah-da, Boom-dee-ah-da". Repeat ad nauseum. Sang it every single summer for hours on end at Jumonville camp (goodness, it still exists and has a home page!).

Anyway, everyone gets settled and the play gets going. The stage uses the same bits of modern doors/windows they use for all the plays about the lies we live in behind closed doors. But they have this big bird cage on top - bird flu be damned. They had had some crows in there (which would be very fitting, crow on the cradle and all that), but some animal activists screamed and now they have a buzzard. It just perches there, gets videos shown on it, and watches us watching him. Or her.

The main character, Maggie (the cat), is good, but not really quite the bitch that TW has written into the piece. Her lines are wonderfully sarcastic. Elizabeth Taylor was perfect for this part in the movie with Paul Newmann as the alcoholic ex-football player Brick.

The name of the play/movie comes from a bit of dialogue between Maggie and Brick:

  • Maggie - You know what I feel like? I feel all the time like a cat on a hot tin roof.
  • Brick - Then jump off the roof, Maggie. Jump off it. Cats jump off roofs and land uninjured. Do it. Jump.
  • Maggie - Jump where? Into what?
Exactly - where are you to jump? Turn into your sister-in-law, dropping babies once a year? Turn into your mother-in-law, an overbearing women living another happy-family lie? Get a baby of your own from a guy who does not really love you and drinks far too much? Getting a job and a life of one's own was not an option in the 50s.

The booklet for the play has a piece by Catherine Tice called "Is Tennessee here?" about meeting TW. One sentence rather sums it up, I'll put in a second to add some context and note that I am translating back from the German:
Up until now my father had not met the great man. He admired Williams above all others, as many did in his generation, those who opened up to their homosexuality in the Seventies, who drank too much and constantly rejected their families and wrestled with the burdon of their own self-hatred.
I am reminded of the title of a book by Douglas Coupland: "all families are psychotic". Maybe we just have to accept that our families made us what we are - good or bad or inbetween - and get on with our lives, in turn making our own children miserable.

Anyway, it was entertaining, but those chairs at the Schaubühne are not suitable for people with back problems, take a pillow with you.

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