i’m no theater critic, to be sure.
or…wait. isn’t everyone a critic?
okay then i am.
anyhow, i’m embarrassed to say i’d never seen phylicia rashad as anything but claire huxtable on the cosby show. so sunday night, at the gypsy run of the new broadway revival of tennessee william’s “cat on a hot tin roof” i was fully expecting…claire huxtable as big mama. this is not to say that actors who become well known for successful t.v. careers cannot return to theater, or cannot escape their television persona. but it can be difficult.
of all the actors on stage sunday night, ms. rashad, for me, disappeared into her role the most believably. and this includes academy award nominee terrence howard (whom I could barely hear much of the time), the venerable james earl jones (whom i could hear but couldn’t understand much of the time) and the talented anika noni rose (whom i could hear and understand!)
it was not until the curtain call that i saw anything resembling claire huxtable from rashad. and i believed nearly every moment, save a bit of overdone crying toward the end of the night.
still, what was most surprising to me was that “cat on a hot tin roof” is a comedy! the audience roared with laughter at many moments i had assumed were frighteningly tragic (things like, oh...alcoholism, and verbal and physical abuse.) maybe we should have had guest appearances from mr. huxtable! and theo! and that adorable tiny girl who ended up gaining a lot of weight later in life! or am i thinking of gary coleman?
and of course, there was the predictable cell phone conversation that went on directly behind me for at least a two minutes, throughout the play's climax. i know the rest of us in the mezzanine were glad the woman didn’t miss that call, though. i think she was a doctor and the call was from a dying patient waitin' on a good kidney. or else it had something to do with national security.