Review: Sienna Miller Coaxes New Life From an Old ‘Cat’

But Mr. Andrews has again stripped a Williams play down to its animal essence. And I’m not referring to its able-bodied stars’ appearances in states of unembarrassed nudity.

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Colm Meaney, left, and Jack O’Connell as father and son in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

Credit
Johan Persson

The more compelling nakedness on display is that of people revealed in the altogether of their atavistic impulses: the will to keep living and the fear of dying. The characters may be motivated by the elements that keep prime-time soaps spinning season after season: power, sex and money. But this production insists that such desires, and their fancier manifestations, can be reduced to the all-consuming fight to stay alive.

As the play’s blunt philosopher in residence, the plantation owner Big Daddy Pollitt (a terrific Colm Meaney), puts it, “The human animal is a beast that dies, but the fact that he’s dying don’t give him pity for others.”

That makes life a mighty lonely business. And the production uses the expanse of the Apollo stage to define the unbridgeable distances among people. The setting is Big Daddy’s mansion — or to be specific, the bedroom of his alcoholic older son, Brick (Mr. O’Connell), and Brick’s wife, Maggie (Ms. Miller). It is Big Daddy’s 65th birthday, and though his family has yet to tell him, recent tests have revealed he has terminal cancer.

As designed by Magda Willi, this is no chintz-filled boudoir out of Southern Living. The two indispensable pieces of furniture — a bed and a vanity table (with a mirror) — are in place. And there’s an open shower, which Brick makes use of, clothed and unclothed, to drown out the din of family strife.

Otherwise, there’s nowhere to hide. The dwarfing metallic walls are the color of money — shades of copper and silver and gold,…

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