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Scarlett Johansson stars as Maggie in 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway.
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By Ed Jones
THE WALL of four-story brownstones doesn't leave much room for sunshine. But the block of 22nd Street between 8th and 9th avenues in the Chelsea section of New York City seems sunny all the same.
The tiny gardens along the street are well-kept. New Yorkers, walking their beloved dogs, occasionally even say hello. Peeks inside the generously-sized living rooms at night reveal a wide diversity of artworks.
A local resident confides that, at Halloween, the whole block is transformed into a spectacle of pumpkins, witches and the wildest of costumes.
This is the side of New York City I've come to cherish more than the too-familiar landmarks of Midtown, where hordes of tourists elbow down the sidewalks. This block of 22nd Street was "home" for my wife, Peggy, and me this month for four days while I attended a seminar at General Theological Seminary right around the corner.
In the few hours I wasn't focusing on "Practical Peacebuilding" within the Harry Potter-like confines of the seminary, Peggy and I made a point of immersing ourselves into the delights of the big city.
On Broadway, at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on 46th Street, you'll find the latest incarnation of Tennessee Williams' tale of a grotesquely dysfunctional family, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." This production stars the noted and voluptuous film star, Scarlett Johansson, in the lead role of Maggie.
Johansson is definitely up to high-level stage work, as she proved two years ago in her award-winning performance in Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge." But I'm not sure Maggie is a good fit for her.
Johansson is definitely powerful enough, holding her own against Big Daddy. Her bravado sounds genuine, even if the Southern accent doesn't. But she's missing the inner fragility of the part.
I found her presence more alluring during the curtain call, when she sheepishly acknowledged the audience's ovation, than during the play itself.
Two nights later, we turned the clock back with a rainy walk to the iconic jazz mecca of Greenwich Village, the Village Vanguard. Tucked into the basement triangle of a showroom was the Fred Hersch Trio. I like my jazz a little less cerebral, but it felt right to be in the space where John Coltrane once held forth.