For those who may have missed Ruth Stage’s off-Broadway production of the Tennessee William’s classic “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” last summer, fear not because it’s returning for a limited re-engagement from Feb. 24 through March 31 at the St. Clements Theatre in New York City — and its star, Matt de Rogatis, couldn’t be happier.
De Rogatis, whose numerous acting credits include Frederick Clegg in “The Collector,” Richard III in Austin Pendleton’s
“Wars of the Roses,” and Tom in “The Glass Menagerie,” returns in the lead role of Brick, an alcoholic ex-football player, for which he has received critical acclaim.
But de Rogatis, who is also the chairman and creative director of Ruth Stage, says that although the show is returning, audience members can expect numerous changes.
“For those who saw the summer production, we are coming back with a largely new cast,” he said. “Some of the major roles have been re-cast, the design teams are different, and it is going to be an entirely new production. Our re-engagement will be the FURTHEST thing from continuing what we did last summer.”
Asked how the play’s return came about, de Rogatis explained that the show’s return follows a series of setbacks including COVID-related cancellations in 2020 and an overall “tremendous” amount of work that went into the summer production.
“It was just like this crazy odyssey,” he said. “And then before you know it, it’s over. And you feel like ‘Wow, it just ended so quick.’ All that work, years of work, and in the blink of an eye it just felt like…this can’t be it.”
But following a good review in the New York Times and strong audience reactions, Ruth Stage’s rendition “got hot” and de Rogatis began to think the show could — and should — be kept going.
In addition, a series of odd occurrences including seeing the words “take the risk” written in chalk on a sidewalk as well as his neighbor, who was throwing out a pair of crutches asking if he needed a crutch (his character Brick is on crutches), convinced the actor to forge ahead with the show.
“I contacted Concord Theatricals and asked if we could get a re-engagement and they told me yes, that the Tennessee Williams estate was very happy with the production and that they were behind us,” de Rogatis recalled. “At that point, it just seemed like a no-brainer. This show needed to keep going.”
When it comes to running Ruth Stage, de Rogatis says it’s “just been about taking full control of my career, controlling my own destiny.”
The actor added that he’s the “anti-theatre theatre guy” who hasn’t auditioned in 10-plus years, doesn’t have an agent and doesn’t want one. “I like doing my own thing,” he said. “I enjoy building with the people close to me. And we are finding success.”
When asked what he likes best about his character Brick, de Rogatis said he has felt most challenged — and perhaps most excited by — the physical nature of the role.
“I’m hobbling around on one leg all night, falling, crawling, drunk, it’s a lot,” he said. “Between rehearsals and performances in our summer run I took over 200 falls.”
De Rogatis currently studies psychology at Rutger’s University and will resume classes once the show ends. “No one writes stories about normal people,” he said. “Any good play, the stakes are high, there’s conflicts or addictions, personality disorders, infidelity, murder, suicide, you name it.”
He continues, “To be able to sit down with a character and really analyze him and basically diagnose him is a lot of fun. Because then you take that diagnosis and learn more about it. Then you take all that information and bring it to the character. That is what I like best.”
Asked why people should see the show, de Rogatis said it’s all in the numbers.
“I did the math and basically since its premiere in 1955, the show, on average, is produced in Manhattan about once every 11 years,” he said. “That means ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ won’t be back until 2034.”
Further, de Rogatis says the show is a very historical production as the first to be staged Off Broadway and first ever re-engagement in addition to being modernized and set in 2023.
As an added incentive, de Rogatis is offering a discount code at telechargeoffers.com, using promo code CAT23.
For more about the show and the members of the cast, visit ruthstage.org.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.