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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

a Drama
CATEGORY : DRAMA
by Tennessee Williams

COMPANY : Georgia Shakespeare [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Conant Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 3425

SHOWING : June 26, 2009 - August 01, 2009

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

A family gathering to celebrate "Big Daddy" Pollitt�s birthday unveils long-kept secrets and schemes to gain a share of Big Daddy�s wealthy Southern estate. Tennessee Williams� story of a Southern family in crisis has become a true American classic.


CAST & CREW LIST
Gooper Pollitt Chris Ensweiler
Dr. Baugh Chris Kayser
Mae Pollitt Tess Malis Kincaid
Brick Pollitt Daniel May
Big Daddy Pollitt Tim McDonough
Big Mama Pollitt Megan McFarland
Maggie Pollitt Courtney Patterson
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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The Smell of Mendacity
by Dedalus
Monday, August 10, 2009
5.0
As the honeysuckle heat of July begins to step aside for the torrid inferno that is an Atlanta August, what creaky metaphor should I evoke to describe Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tennessee Williams love letter to mendacity? The dance references I shuffled on for my Suddenly, Last Summer comments seem especially ill-suited for a play in which only one person seems to be dancing at any particular moment. I could probably make a case that this is a simple two-step, but only if one of the partners were sitting on the sidelines, ignoring the dancer.

For the moment, I think Ill leave my literary pretensions in the liquor cabinet (where they probably belong), and tea-total my way through a simple description.

In Act One, we meet Maggie the Cat, aka Margaret Pollitt, purring spouse to one Brick Pollitt, apple-of-the-eye of Big Daddy Pollitt. Big Daddy is a Mississippi Delta plantation owner, Twenty-eight thousand acres of the richest land this side of the Valley Nile. Brick is a professional drinker. Maggie is a talker. In what is essentially a 45-minute monologue, Courtney Patterson is the epitome of the Southern Gentlewoman, scheming, passionate, envious, suspicious, telling us anything and everything except what we (and she) really want her to say. Daniel May (as Brick) drinks and grunts.

In Act Two, Maggie is replaced by Tim McDonoughs hulking Big Daddy, a life-force who takes full control of any room hes in, a cancerous lion roaring his rage at the dying of the light. In what is essentially a 45-minute monologue, he tells us anything and everything except what we (and he) really want him to say. Daniel May (as Brick) drinks and grunts.

In Act Three, that risky third hour when audiences normally get restless and begin checking their watches, all the lying and mendacity is laid bare, all the seething resentments and hostilities burst from their graves, and the play generates an excitement and watchability that is absolutely spell-binding.

I have to take a moment here for a digression. Mr. Williams scripts have a tendency to burst from the page, as if the production were fully-formed in the readers minds, a reason there is usually little directorial intervention, why most productions tend to be recreations of the authors mind. I want to quote you a stage direction that, in essence, introduces what Im about to discuss:

The bird that I hope to catch in the rest of this play is not the solution of one mans psychological problem. Im trying to catch the true quality of experience in a group of people, that cloudy, flickering, evanescent fiercely charged! interplay of live human beings in the thundercloud of a common crisis. Some mystery should be left in the revelation of character in a play, just as a great deal of mystery is always left in the revelation of character in life, even in ones own character to himself.

I quote this now, because it goes straight to the heart of much recent post-Stonewall analysis of the play that is, the simple (and pat) reduction of the conflict to one of Bricks latent homosexuality. Indeed, a case is often made that, if Brick were allowed by the ethos of his society to fully engage in his undeclared (even unacknowledged) desires for his friend Skipper, there would be no play.

I submit that an equally valid case could be made for Big Daddy being just as homosexual his very real disgust with Big Mama, his preference for Brick over older son Gooper (what kind of name is that?), his gentleman doth protest too much talk of lechery and poontang, his history as a protg of a pair of confirmed bachelor landowners, even his seemingly out-of-character tolerance for anything that may have happened between Brick and Skipper all these elements can lead to a similar (and valid) interpretation.

What sets Williams work apart from more recent politics-on-my-sleeve rage-at-the-ethos offerings, though, is that, even if these explanations are true (as indeed they very well may be), this play is so much more. Since true feelings, true from-the-core characteristics are buried by so much, well, by so much mendacity, we are left only to speculate as to the truth or falsehood of these analyses. And, since the truth obviously matters so little to these characters (while paradoxically being ALL that matters), we are left with a moving and compelling interaction of characters with at-odds goals and desires thrown into an emotional cauldron heated by an outsized southern sun. And were left, in more ways than one, acknowledging the wry reality of the oft-repeated observation, wouldnt it be funny if that were true.

I have to add at this point that I totally disagree with many of the nay-sayers who have nit-picked this and that about this production (the casting, the performances, the unexpectedly inappropriate laughter, the length). Agreed, Megan McFarland is not the Plus-Size you might expect from a Big Mama, but her padded costume and out-sized personality sold me on the character (and made Big Daddys comments about her size even more cruel). Ms. Patterson, I thought, was totally credible as Maggie, her volume intelligible, her passions real. Mr. McDonoughs Big Daddy was spot-on perfect, keeping his motivations and fears below the surface (but apparent), ruling the roast like the crueler-than-life icon he needed to be. Tess Malis Kincaid and Chris Ensweiler made Brother Man and Sister Woman more than the paper-thin foils theyre sometimes reduced to, giving them a credibility that makes their actions (and disappointments) valid and even a bit sad. The minor minor roles are more than mere prop characters and the children are charming and aggravating.

Daniel May gives a beautifully nuanced performance in what is probably the most difficult role Brick must spend most of the play drinking himself into a calmness, listening while the talkers force him into a captive audience role. Mr. May ALWAYS has something going on beneath his quiet, ALWAYS uses the words spewed over him to propel him deeper into the bottle. I believed his protestations of innocence regarding his relationship with Skipper, I believed his guilt over his part in Skippers death, I even believe that at one time he was actually attracted to (and maybe even in love with) Maggie. And, when we finally get to his own late-in-Act-Two monologue, all these conflicting depths and currents burst forth in a totally convincing ode to love and loss and self-delusion. This is, indeed, a remarkable performance.

Kat Conleys set beautifully evokes the ghost-like quality that Mr. Williams describes in his script high walls fade into silhouettes of trees, the outside gallery suggests the wealth and opulence of the south, the entertainment center / liquor cabinet provides the magnet that keeps calling to Brick. The lights and sound by Mike Post and Clay Benning evoke the heat and sweat of the summer night, giving us the glow of fireworks, lightning, and moon in beautifully realized paintings of color and sound. And Jasson Minadakis makes a welcome return to the area, orchestrating his cast in a perfectly paced symphony of words and silences and outbursts and resentments, picking up pace at exactly the right moments, slowing to a quiet calm just when respite is needed.

Ive recently written about plays that feature families on the edge of dysfunction, families that possess of core of affection that is the lifeline through their spats and miscommunications. Here, though, we see a family without that lifeline. I suspect that love is alien to the Pollitts, that spouses are for breeding only, that children are no-neck monsters who exist only to carry on the family traditions. Even the love Big Daddy expresses for Brick seems forced, convenient, unconvincing.

I suppose my quandary is thus resolved you cant grow metaphorical cotton in a field so barren.

And wouldnt it be funny if that were true?


-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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Perfect, No, but Perfectly Adequate
by playgoer
Friday, July 3, 2009
4.0
Georgia Shakespeare's "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" takes place on a lovely, workable set. The walls of the elegant room merge into silhouettes of a tree line, and upstage is a veranda with cyclorama on which effective lighting changes play out. Blocking makes use of the full area, with lurkers on the veranda working particularly well.

This is a full production of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, with a group of children and a couple of servants, none of whom add much to the show. Chris Kayser adds equally little in the role of Dr. Baugh. Joe Knezevich, in the small role of the Reverend, adds a bit more, doing a terrific comic spill into Big Mama's lap.

Casting seems to have been constrained by the ensemble members available. Courtney Patterson and Daniel Thomas May make a very attractive Maggie and Brick. Chris Ensweiler, however, is a colorless Gooper, while Tess Malis Kincaid as his wife Mae scores throughout. Big Daddy (Tim McDonough) and Big Mama (Megan McFarland) come across as giants in comparison to their progeny. The sight of gangly Tim McDonough next to diminutive Chris Ensweiler is comical, and unfortunately occurs at a point in the show when the drama is reaching its peak. Big Daddy may be larger than life metaphorically, but making him physically so out-of-scale large just doesn't work.

The character of Brick is required to be uncommunicative throughout much of the play, and Mr. May is well suited to standing around in a towel looking handsome. He is directed to drink a lot, and his final binge before hearing the "click" is a tad comical, in a way the playwright probably didn't intend.

The ladies behind me murmured "I can't understand a word she's saying" soon in the first act, as Courtney Patterson launched into her act-long monologue. Personally, I found her performance highly effective, without being mesmerizing. The ladies' opinion after the first act? "Maybe they should stick to Shakespeare."

I had more problems with act two, which seemed to drag on. Both Big Daddy and Big Mama spoke as if out of breath throughout the show, and the effect wasn't particularly pleasant, although their projection made their speech understandable. Gaunt Tim McDonough certainly looked sickly, breaking some of the suspense of Big Daddy's health issues. Megan McFarland isn't at all fat, although she is Amazonian, and Big Daddy's jibes and her admissions of being fat consequently don't quite ring true.

The show is professionally directed and acted, so the odd mixture of statures in the show isn't an overwhelming obstacle. Certain directorial choices are memorable -- Maggie crawling panther-like on the bed, Big Mama trying to get through the bedroom door as Big Daddy blocks it, Maggie throwing pajamas in the bathroom and whipping out a towel that presumably had been covering Brick. The play itself is strong (if long) and the general outlines of the work are uncompromised in this production. It's not a perfect production, but it's well worth seeing if you are a special fan of any of the leads and haven't seen another production (or the movie) recently. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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