Welcome to Act II and get ready for some serious fireworks. You'll be happy to know that no time has passed since the end of Act I, so feel free to refresh yourself on that image of marital bliss with which we ended Act I.
Big Daddy enters the room first.
The rest of the party enters the room via all manner of doorways, windows, and floorboards.
The Reverend is talking about how beautiful the stained-glass windows are in Saint Paul's in Grenada.
Then they start talking about how the Reverend's church needs air conditioning. It is beginning to seem a little fishy how much this Reverend keeps talking about things other churches have that his doesn't.
Big Daddy catches on too and asks whether the Reverend's expecting someone to die and leave a sum of money. Awkward. The Reverend laughs it off.
Enter Doctor "Doc" Baugh who is being accosted by Mae Pollitt asking questions about shots and things.
Brick is nursing his drink, as Mr. Williams, in a stage direction, likens this scene to "a great aviary of chattering birds." We agree.
Maggie asks Brick to turn on some music, but he's in Echo Spring land, so she turns on some Wagnerian opera.
Big Daddy screams to turn it off.
Enter Big Mama screaming for her precious baby boy.
Big Daddy asks for someone to turn the music back on.
Everyone is laughing very loudly.
Big Daddy is making jokes at Big Mama's expense, but she doesn't care because she is celebrating the false report on his cancer.
Big Mama tells Brick to put his drink down, and he obeys, chugging his Echo Spring.
Big Mama continues to fawn and fuss over him until Brick turns on the TV.
Big Mama keeps talking really loudly, and Big Daddy gets more and more annoyed.
Big Mama asks for the Reverend's help in getting out of her chair; he obliges, and then she pulls him into her lap. She even says, "Ever seen a preacher in a fat lady's lap?" This play is unreal!
Mr. Williams interjects here with a lengthy footnote explaining that Big Mama is notorious in these parts for her naughty behavior. Gooper and Mae hate this behavior because they think it's keeping them from the better circles of society.
The maids, referred to in the stage direction as "the Negroes," pop their heads in every few seconds waiting for the cue to bring in Big Daddy's cake.
Big Daddy continues to puzzle over the pain in his gut, even though he's been told he's cancer-free.
Big Daddy yells at Big Mama to "quit horsin'," and tells everyone what her blood pressure was last spring (200, if you were curious).
"Negroes with white jackets" bring in the monster cake and buckets of champagne with ribbons around the bottle-necks.
Mae and Gooper start singing and everyone joins except Brick.
Mae starts organizing the kiddies center stage so that they can give a rousing performance of the age-old children's song "Skinamarinka—dinka—do."
Big Mama bursts into tears. So do we. But not tears of joy.
Big Daddy oh-so-tactfully asks her what's wrong.
Big Mama replies that she's crying tears of happiness over Big Daddy's news.
She almost puts her foot in her mouth, talking about what would happen if Daddy were to die.
Maggie interrupts, suggesting that Brick give Big Daddy his birthday present and handing the present to Big Daddy.
Gooper and Mae ask Brick what it is, placing bets that he has no idea.
Big Daddy tells Big Mama to open the present herself.
Big Daddy says he wants to ask Brick a question.
Brick doesn't heed Big Daddy's question, even when Maggie tells him to.
Maggie opens Big Daddy's present and acts surprised when she discovers it's a cashmere robe.
Mae asks her why she looks so surprised when she was the one who bought the robe.
Maggie turns on Mae, explaining that her family never had things like cashmere robes when she was growing up.
Maggie and Mae get into a little cat-fight, during which Mae explains how she knows Maggie bought the sweater.
Maggie tells her she'd be an excellent FBI agent.
Big Daddy tells everyone to shut up.
Everybody does, except for the Reverend, who is a little slow on the uptake.
Big Daddy asks him if he's butting in on any more discussions of stained glass windows.
Big Mama tells Big Daddy not to pick on the Reverend.
Mae comments on the mosquitoes and wonders if they'd eat everyone alive if they were to all go outside and hang out in the gallery.
Big Daddy says if the mosquitoes did eat her alive, he'd have her bones pulverized for fertilizer. No, seriously.
Big Daddy then asks whether it's true that Brick was jumping hurdles at the high school the night before.
Brick is in Echo Spring land and doesn't quite hear Big Daddy's question.
Big Daddy repeats his question, and Brick coolly responds, "That's what they told me."
Big Daddy then tries to split some hairs, and wants to know whether Brick was "jumping or humping" the night before.
Big Mama tries to chastise Big Daddy for his naughty insinuations, but Big Daddy just responds with his favorite word in the entire English language: "Quiet!"
Big Daddy continues the investigation by asking Brick whether he "was cuttin' you'self a piece o' poon-tang last night on that cinder track?" (Would we make this up? See for yourself!)
Everyone laughs a little awkwardly.
Big Mama stamps her foot.
Brick meets his dad's gaze and says he doesn't think so.
Mae takes the Reverend for a walk.
Big Daddy continues his investigation once more, asking Brick what he was doing at the high school track field at three o'clock in the morning.
Brick tells his father that he was jumping hurdles. The high hurdles, he says, are too high for him now.
Big Daddy asks if his drunkenness prevented him from being able to jump the high hurdles.
Brick responds he wouldn't be able to jump the low hurdles if he were sober.
Big Mama tries to shake up the hurdle talk by encouraging Big Daddy to blow out his candles.
Maggie starts to propose a toast.
Big Daddy just yells at everyone with his favorite word again, but this time with a bit more fury.
Big Mama says she won't allow Big Daddy to talk that way.
Big Daddy reminds her it's his birthday and he can talk any darn way he wants to.
Big Mama tells him that she knows he doesn't mean it.
Everyone else starts to exchange secret glances and to move toward the gallery, leaving Big Daddy and Big Mama alone.
Big Daddy tells her that she doesn't know anything. Big Daddy tells her he's put up with everyone because he thought he was dying. He tells her sees right through Big Mama's ways, sees that she's trying to take over the family.
Then Big Daddy launches into a monologue in which he describes his life's story.
This is his story: He was first the overseer of the plantation. He quit school when he was ten, worked in the fields, and then rose to become an overseer at this very plantation once run by Straw and Ochello. When Straw died, he became Ochello's business partner, and the place got bigger and bigger, and bigger and bigger.
Then Big Daddy ends his story, and he continues to berate Big Mama for thinking she could take over and take control on his deathbed.
He tells Big Mama he's been through all the medical tests, and that all he has is a spastic colon, made spastic by all the lies and liars he has to put up with.
Big Daddy basically calls their marriage a 40-year hypocrisy, and then tells Big Mama to blow out the candles.
Big Mama is beside herself with sobbing and hollering and asks him if for all these years he has never believed that she loved him.
She tells him how much she has loved him.
She walks out of the bedroom and onto the gallery.
Big Daddy is alone and just says, "wouldn't it be funny if that was true…."
Meanwhile, fireworks are going off outside. No, for real. Fireworks are lighting the sky up outside.
Big Daddy calls after Brick while he stands over his blazing birthday cake.
Brick hobbles in on his crutches, with Maggie following him.
Maggie tells Big Daddy she's delivering Brick to him; she kisses Brick, who then wipes the kiss off with the back of his hand.
Big Daddy asks Brick why he wiped the kiss off with the back of his hand.
Brick says he wasn't conscious of it.
Big Daddy tells Brick that Maggie has a nicer body than Mae, but that they have the same look about them.
Brick adds that it's not such a peaceful look.
Big Daddy agrees.
Brick says that they look nervous as cats on a hot tin roof. (Ding ding ding ding! Title alert! Title alert!)
Big Daddy definitely agrees, and wonders why he and Gooper would choose the same kind of woman.
Brick says that they both married into society.
Big Daddy wonders what gives them that catty look.
Brick attributes it to the fact that they're sitting in the middle of a big piece of land and they each want a piece for themselves.
Brick tells him to just let the two women scratch their eyes out.
Big Daddy says that's exactly what he's going to do, but concedes that Mae is "a good breeder."
Big Daddy tells Brick he doesn't know how you can start with a piece of land, how things keep growing and accumulating on it until it is out of hand. There's talk of how it's like a vacuum of hell.
Big Daddy feels like someone is eavesdropping at the door and thinks it's Gooper.
Mae appears in the gallery door.
Big Daddy begins to chastise her from here to Sunday, telling her he's going to have her and Gooper moved from the bedroom next to Brick and Maggie's so that they'll stop eavesdropping and tattle-taling on Brick and Maggie all the time.
Mae throws her arms up to the heavens, starts to cry, and then leaves.
Brick and Big Daddy are alone again and Brick asks him what Gooper and Mae hear when they eavesdrop on him and Maggie.
Big Daddy tells him that they know that Brick doesn't sleep with Maggie, that he sleeps on the couch. He asks if this is really true, and tells Brick to just get rid of Maggie and find another woman if it is true.
Brick doesn't respond but freshens up his Echo Spring.
Big Daddy tells him he has a real alcohol problem and asks Brick if that's why he quit his job as a sports announcer. He tells him that life is too important to waste on drinking.
Big Daddy asks Brick to come sit down next to him, which Brick does. He asks Brick to tell him why he quit his sports announcer job.
Brick tells him he felt like he had a mouth full of cotton and was always three beats behind what was happening on the field.
Big Daddy gets a little lightheaded from his cigar.
The clock chimes ten times.
Brick sinks down comfortably into the couch.
Big Daddy sits up an anxiously begins to tell the story of how and when he and Big Mama got the clock.
This is Big Daddy's story:
Big Daddy had the worst time possible on the trip to Europe he took with Big Mama one summer.
Big Mama bought lots and lots of stuff on the trip, most of which is now in crates in the basement.
Big Daddy describes Europe as one big auction full of "old worn-out places."
He says it's lucky he is such a rich man, and asks Brick how much money he thinks he has.
Big Daddy tells Brick he has close to ten million dollars in cash and blue-chip stocks, not to mention 28,000 acres of rich farmland. This is the 1950s. That's the equivalent of something like ten bajillian dollars.
Fireworks go off outside again.
Big Daddy tells Brick that life is the one thing money cannot buy.
He soberly tells Brick that he's wiser and sadder for having momentarily lived with knowledge that his goose was cooked.
Big Daddy goes on recounting the story of the trip to Europe.
He describes the barefoot children in Europe begging for money. He describes how fat the priests are in Spain, and how he gave away money to the skinny, starving children like scattering feed corn for chickens.
Big Daddy then moves on to tell Brick about the prostitution he encountered in Morocco.
He's having a cigar in Marrakech one day and a woman stands before him, staring at him so intensely that he gets embarrassed.
She then pushes her little girl at him. The little girl walks toward Big Daddy, barely able to walk, and tries to unbutton his pants.
Big Daddy ends his account, and is thoroughly disturbed by the memories.
Brick tells his father he's talking "jag."
Big Daddy sums it all up, saying that the human animal is a beast that dies, and dying does not make a human compassionate.
Brick asks his father to hand him his crutch so that he can get some more Echo Spring.
Big Daddy obliges, and continues to wax philosophical.
He says he thinks the reason why people buy and buy and buy is that humans hope that one day they can buy life everlasting.
Brick comments on how chatty Big Daddy is being tonight.
Big Daddy explains that he's been quiet as of late, and, because he's had a weight lifted, he's feeling the need to talk.
Brick then says that what he would like to hear most is perfect quiet, because it's more peaceful. He asks Big Daddy if he is finished talking to him.
Big Daddy asks why Brick is so intent on shutting him up.
Brick retorts that every so often Big Daddy will ask to speak to him, as he did this night, but then nothing happens. Brick says that their conversations are empty and nothing is said. Communication, he says, is hard between them.
Big Daddy then asks if Brick has ever been scared before.
Big Daddy gets up from the sofa and closes the door to the gallery, like he going to share a deep secret with Brick.
Big Daddy tells Brick that he really thought that he had cancer.
Brick comments that Big Daddy was quiet about it.
Big Daddy responds that a real man "keeps a tight mouth" about such things. He muses that humans are the only animal that is conscious of mortality.
Big Daddy asks Brick if a whiskey high ball would help his spastic colon.
Brick says it would indeed.
Big Daddy feels like the skies are open again.
He tells Brick he feels like he can breathe now, after spending his whole life like a doubled-up fist, smashing and pounding things.
Big Daddy tells Brick he's thinking about women and about sleeping with women.
Brick remarks how admirable that is.
Big Daddy has had many chances to sleep with other women in the past that he's turned down due to his scruples, but he is no longer going to heed those scruples.
Big Daddy talks about his sex life with Big Mama.
The phone rings in the hallway. Phew! Thank goodness. Saved by the bell.
Big Mama enters the room to get to the phone.
Big Daddy asks her why she has to cross through this room when there are five other rooms through which she could travel to get to the phone.
Big Daddy tells a joke about Big Mama and doubles over in laughter.
Brick walks toward the verandah.
Big Daddy tells him to come back to finish their conversation, which, according to him, has not even begun.
He tells Brick to turn on the ceiling fan.
Big Mama's voice is heard in the hallway; she's talking on the phone to Miss Sally, Big Daddy's sister.
Big Mama tries to reenter the bedroom talking loudly about Miss Sally, and Big Daddy covers his ears.
Big Daddy holds the door against Big Mama so that she can't come in.
Big Mama starts complaining again about the mean things Big Daddy said about her before.
Big Daddy successfully shuts the door on her.
Big Daddy then starts talking about his sex life again with Big Mama (and we cover our ears this time). He vividly tells Brick about his intentions to get a mistress. Vividly.
Big Daddy is laughing so much that Mae and Gooper call to him from the verandah.
Big Daddy cries a little as he tells Brick that he is truly happy. He even hugs Brick a little.
Brick sighs and tries to get up from the couch.
Big Daddy asks him why he is so restless.
Brick tells him he's waiting for the click.
Big Daddy asks what this is.
Brick tells him it is a click of peacefulness. This disturbs Big Daddy.
Brick describes the click further as a being like a hot light turning off in his head, and the cool night turning on.
Big Daddy whistles with astonishment and tells Brick he didn't realize he was a full-fledged alcoholic.
Brick freshens his drink as he tells Big Daddy that it's taking longer for the click to arrive today.
Big Daddy says that his recent stint with death made him blind to his own son's alcoholism.
Brick excuses himself and says that he will go sit by himself in order to expedite the clickage.
Big Daddy tells Brick the conversation is not over and will only be over when he says it is over.
Brick comments that this conversation is like all others that they have had before; it goes nowhere. Kind of like how Maggie's foreplay with Brick goes nowhere.
Big Daddy grabs the crutch from Brick and throws it across the room so that he can't get to it and so that he is forced to stay in his seat.
Brick says he could hop on one foot to get the crutch himself.
Big Daddy tells him he's going to straighten him out, just like he's been straightened out by his brush with death.
Big Daddy starts talking about his spastic colon again.
A little girl bursts into the room with a sparkler and is shrieking.
Big Daddy strikes at her.
Big Daddy continues to express the relief he felt upon discovering he wasn't going to die.
Laughter, the sound of running footsteps, and rockets exploding are heard outside.
Brick gets up from his seat suddenly, hops across the room, grabs his crutch, and tries to leave the room.
Big Daddy catches him by his shirt sleeve and tells him to stay right where he is.
Brick repeats his argument that their conversations never amount to anything.
Big Daddy repeats that they have plenty to talk about, since he's seen the face of death and has discovered he's going to live.
Brick tells him he's "all balled up."
Big Daddy tells him he's the boss and that he's going to rip off his coat sleeve if he doesn't sit down.
Big Mama rushes in and says she can't stand the screaming.
Big Daddy raises his hand like he's going to strike her.
Big Mama rushes back out of the room.
Brick breaks free of Big Daddy's grip and rushes toward the gallery.
Big Daddy pulls the crutch from under him so that Brick steps on his broken ankle.
Brick yelps in pain and demands that Big Daddy give him his crutch.
Big Daddy asks Brick why he drinks.
Brick says he doesn't know and that he's in pain.
Big Daddy strikes a deal with Brick and tells him he'll make him a drink if Brick tells him why he drinks.
Brick says he drinks out of disgust.
The clock strikes.
Brick demands his drink.
Big Daddy wants to know what exactly he is disgusted with.
Brick demands a drink first.
Big Daddy makes him a drink.
Brick tells Daddy that he drinks because of mendacity.
Children start chanting offstage, "we want Big Dad-dee!"
Gooper tries to come into the room to get Big Daddy.
Big Daddy tells him to keep out.
Big Daddy slams the door after Gooper and asks Brick who has been lying to him.
Brick tells him it's not one person, but the "whole thing."
Big Daddy launches into a lecture on all the lies he's had to put up with over the years: pretending to care about Big Mama, Gooper, Mae, his grandchildren, church, and the clubs he belongs to.
Big Daddy tells Brick he's always genuinely liked him. He tells Brick the only two things he cares about are Brick and being a successful planter. Aw.
Big Daddy tells Brick that there isn't anything else to live with besides mendacity. We don't know what this means exactly.
Brick begs to differ and says that one can live with alcohol.
Big Daddy tells him he's dodging from life.
Brick says he wants to dodge from life in order to drink.
In exasperation, Big Daddy tells Brick that when he thought he was at Death's door, he considered turning over all of his riches to Brick. He tells Brick he cannot do so if Brick is on the bottle.
Brick tells Big Daddy he doesn't care, and invites Big Daddy to look at the fireworks and eat his birthday cake.
Brick stands in the doorway as the sky lights up with fireworks.
Big Daddy quietly begs Brick to stay and continue the conversation, to not leave it like most of the talks they have in which nothing gets said.
Brick tells Big Daddy he's never lied to him.
Big Daddy says that makes two.
Big Daddy asks whether drinking is the only thing that will kill the disgust.
Brick says that a man who drinks is someone who wants to forget that he isn't young or believing any more.
Big Daddy wants to know what he means by "believing."
Brick asks him if he's ever known a drinking man who could tell him why he drinks.
Big Daddy drops the 'S' bomb and says that he thinks Brick drinks because Skipper died.
Brick asks him what he's suggesting.
Big Daddy tells him that Gooper and Mae told him there was something odd about Brick's relationship with Skipper.
Brick tells him he thought that only Maggie perpetrated that suspicion.
Mr. Williams interjects here with a lengthy stage note telling us that Brick's detachment is finally shaken. Williams suggests that the mendacity Brick talks about is the fact that his relationship with Skipper had to be disavowed in order for them to seem proper in the eyes of society. Basically, Brick is scared of what society would think of his relationship with Skipper.
Mr. Williams continues, saying he doesn't want to capture one man's psychological struggle with this play, but wants to capture the experience of a group of people. Wait, so who's the good guy? Which team are we rooting for again?
Brick begins to interrogate Big Daddy, demanding to know who else has been suggesting that his friendship with Skipper was improper.
Big Daddy tries to calm him down and begins to tell him about his wild youth when he slept in "hobo jungles" and "flophouses."
Brick interprets this storytelling hour as Big Daddy's attempt to tell him he also believes that Brick is "queer."
The Reverend comes in at this emotionally charged moment looking for the bathroom.
Big Daddy directs him to a bathroom at the other end of the house.
Big Daddy comments that it's hard to have a conversation in this house.
Big Daddy continues to talk about his wayward past and tells Brick about how Peter Ochello and Jack Straw took him in.
Big Daddy says that when Straw died, Ochello stopped eating and died soon after.
Brick swears intermittently and says that Skipper is dead, and he has not stopped eating.
Big Daddy points out that he has started drinking.
Footsteps are heard on the gallery.
Brick explodes and asks his father whether he believes he and Skipper did "sodomy – together?"
Brick continues to shout questions at Big Daddy, asking him whether he thinks that he and Skipper did dirty things, that they were a pair of dirty men.
Big Daddy tries to calm and quiet him down.
Brick loses his balance and falls to his knees.
He grabs the bed to help himself up.
Big Daddy offers his hand to help him up.
Brick continues to rant, telling Big Daddy a story from his college days.
Here is Brick's story:
It was discovered that there was a pledge candidate in his fraternity at Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi, who attempted to do an "unnatural thing."
The fraternity brothers ran him out off of campus and out of town.
Big Daddy asks where he ended up.
Brick says North Africa, last he heard.
That ends Brick's story about his college days.
Big Daddy tells him he's been farther away than that just recently, upon newly arriving from a world in which he thought he was going to die.
Big Daddy tells Brick that the only other thing that can grow on his plantation is tolerance.
Brick continues his rant, wondering why a real, true friendship could not exist without being sullied.
Brick describes how pure his friendship was with Skipper, explaining that the only physical moments they had were when one put a hand on the other's shoulder or reached out to shake a hand to say goodnight.
Big Daddy continues to try to calm him down, saying that no one thinks that their relationship wasn't normal.
Brick says that everyone is wrong; that his friendship with Skipper was pure, and, therefore, rare.
Big Daddy and Brick stare at each other for a moment.
Brick tells him to let the conversation about Skipper go.
Big Daddy asks what made Skipper crack.
Mr. Williams interjects with a stage direction in which Brick stares at his father and makes the decision to tell him the truth about his medical condition.
Brick makes himself another drink, and begins to tell his story. Here it is:
According to Brick, Maggie declares that Skipper and Brick went into pro-football because they were too scared to grow up.
The summer after they graduate from college, Maggie tells Brick that he has to marry her right away or never at all.
Maggie travels with the Dixie Stars football team that fall in order to be with Brick.
She is the best fan, wearing bearskin caps and renting hotel ballrooms for the team parties after games.
Skipper eventually develops a fever that doctors can't explain.
Brick gets injured and watches the football games from his hospital bed.
Brick watches Skipper get pulled out of the game for poor play. He watches how Maggie hangs on Skipper's arm.
Brick feels that Maggie was jealous of Skipper because she and Brick were never very close.
While Brick was in the hospital, Maggie gets close to Skipper and convinces him that there was something more to his relationship with Brick.
Skipper sleeps with Maggie to prove it isn't true.
Brick ends his story.
Big Daddy asks him what details he's leaving out of his story.
The phone rings in the hall again.
Brick tells Big Daddy he left out the fact that he received a long distance call from Skipper during which Skipper made a drunken confession, and on which Brick hung up.
Brick tells Big Daddy this is the last time he ever spoke to Skipper.
Big Daddy tells Brick that they have found the lie at the heart of the disgust that drives Brick to drink.
Big Daddy describes Brick's disgust as disgust with himself and tells Brick he dug Skippers grave.
Brick tells Big Daddy to consider the lie behind the birthday wishes, since everyone knows Big Daddy will not have another birthday.
A voice is heard in the hallway talking on the phone and laughing.
Brick moves towards the door and suggests that they both go out to the gallery right away.
Big Daddy grabs his crutch forcefully, and asks Brick to repeat what he said.
Brick tells him he doesn't remember.
The sky glows green (seriously) as Big Daddy tells Brick to explain what he has just said.
Brick sucks on the ice in his drink and tells Big Daddy to leave the plantation to Mae and Gooper and their children.
Big Daddy is perplexed by the suggestion of his dying. He tells Brick he will outlive him.
Brick tries to coax him to watch the fireworks.
Big Daddy demands to know whether his family is lying to him.
Brick grabs his crutch from Big Daddy and moves onto the gallery.
Singing is heard.
Mae appears, telling Big Daddy the "field hands" are singing for him.
Big Daddy calls after Brick.
The children mock Big Daddy's voice.
Brick apologizes to Big Daddy and says that he doesn't understand why anyone could care about living or dying or anything at all, that is except for whether or not there's alcohol available.
He tells him they are friends and must be honest with each other.
A child runs in to grab firecrackers and runs out screaming, "Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang."
Big Daddy starts to swear at the liars in his family.
He slowly leaves the room.
The sound of a child being slapped comes from the gallery.
The child rushes through the room, bawling.
Brick is left motionless on stage and the lights dim.