Singeing Heat From Cat On A Hot Tin Roof
Sixty-three years after its debut, the award-winning classic still sizzles on stage
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IT'S perfectly understandable that those who have seen the award-winning movie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof would become good-natured critics and compare it to the stage production that’s at Drury Lane Theatre through August 26. In that mix, though, comes the expected and natural comparison of the cast on stage to their movie counterparts––three of the most iconic actors in history. Elizabeth Taylor. Paul Newman. Burl Ives.
That is what has happened––at least that was the case during the presentation on opening night. Some theatergoers whispered while others wondered out aloud just how well these enormous acting shoes would be filled, especially since Taylor won the Academy Award for her role, and Newman and Ives received Oscar nominations for theirs. Selected to take on that task is Genevieve Angelson (in the Taylor role as “Maggie”), Anthony Bowden (as Newman’s “Brick”) and Matt DeCaro (reprising Ives’ role as “Big Daddy”). Each came with his/her own stack of credentials and exhibited the passion, genuineness and magnetism that Tennessee Williams probably had in mind when he wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning story about a flawed, well-to-do family in the South.
Under the direction of Tony Award-nominee Marcia Milgrom Dodge, the production moves at a pace that wraps its fingers around the audience and won’t let go. The play’s first act relies heavily on Maggie, a smart young woman married into money, who tries exhaustively to win back Brick’s affections and to convince her apparently uncaring and indifferent husband to return to their marital bed and tend to her unfilled desires.
The setting is Big Daddy’s Mississippi mansion, or more specifically, in the bedroom of his alcoholic son Brick and his wife Maggie. As a couple, Brick and Maggie, who have come to the expansive plantation to celebrate Big Daddy’s 65th birthday, have their problems––big problems. But there’s a bigger problem that has unleashed the ugliness among family members who are vying for their share of 28,000 acres of land and millions of dollars that will be dispensed when Big Daddy succumbs after recent medical tests revealed that he has a fatal illness.
Anthony Bowden (Brick) and Genevieve Angelson (Maggie) in the classic production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Drury Lane Theatre.
The father-son relationship between Brick and Big Daddy (Matt DeCaro) is central in the show, which includes (below, left to right) Cindy Gold, Michael Milligan and Gail Rastorfer.
Crisis brings out the best and worst in families, and there's a lot of the worst in this dysfunctional family––avarice and self-indulgence, and hostile relationships, due in part to years of miscommunication and misunderstanding. Keeping a watchful eye on what’s going on around him, Big Daddy, the larger-than-life patriarch, describes it as “an odd smell of mendacity” in the house, characterized by the destruction of family harmony due to an abundance of lies and deception.
Aside from Angelson, Bowden and DeCaro, the ensemble cast is strong, appealing and effective, beginning with Cindy Gold as “Big Mama,” Big Daddy’s wife who dotes on favorite son Brick to the detriment of her older son “Gooper” (Michael Milligan), a point not lost on his greedy wife “Mae” (Gail Rastorfer). Rounding out the cast are Craig Spidle (Reverend Tooker), Joe Bianco (Doctor Baugh), Donica Lynn (Sookey) and Reginald Robinson Jr. (Lacey). Their talents have been combined with those of the creative team, including scenic designer Kevin Depinet, to provide a new and captivating presentation of a classic.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is well acted, presented stylishly and, just as it did in 1955, still delivers a harsh message about family relationships and how the gloves come off when a possible benefit is within reach.
Note: Movie, TV and stage actress Janet Ulrich Brooks will take over as Big Mama from August 15 through August 26. Tickets are $43, Wednesday and Thursday matinee; $53 Thursday and Sunday evenings; $58, Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees; student group tickets start at $30; and senior citizens start at $38 for matinees. Dinner and show packages are available. For more information and tickets, go to www.drurylanetheatre..com.