Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, currently being revived on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre with an ineffectual Scarlett Johannsson, has received so many underwhelming notices that I found myself last week at the theater in a most peculiar state: waiting for the curtain to go up with almost no anticipation or expectation. In effect, the evening had failed before it had even begun. While I wouldnâ€™t necessarily recommend this as a good state of mind to begin, approaching Rob Ashford’s production as a blank slate does strip the evening of the burden and baggage of memory. If anything, it affords the director an opportunity to recalibrate and restore the text. Elizabeth Taylor might be enshrined in our collective celluloid consciousness in a revealing white slip purring â€œMaggie the cat is alive!â€ but Ashford rightly understands that Williamsâ€™ parboiled Southern melodrama is really a family affair: a quartet of cats – to beat a metaphor to death – tails up, claws out, and braying for their rightful recompense. His misstep is an inability to find any subtlety in the evening. (Christopher Oramâ€™s gorgeous mixed metaphor bedroom setting is part of the problem: who puts cats in a birdcage?) The drama unfolds in broad, flat strokes, like a table-read put on its feet far too soon. Fine performances from Ciaran Hinds, Benjamin Walker, and Debra Monk canâ€™t mask the fact that the mendacity at the root of this family’s internecine conflict doesn’t have the power to shake us because it’s made so glaringly obvious toÂ everyoneÂ exceptÂ theÂ people onstage. Big moments don’t land because they havenâ€™t been earned. And often Ashford seems content to letÂ theÂ actors revel in Williams’ poetry, rather than connect it to the reality of the mise en scene. It seems that despite the best of intentions this cat’s inÂ free-fall, struggling to find its feet.