CSCâ€™s â€œCat on a Hot Tin Roofâ€ is â€œMust-See Tennesseeâ€
Review by Liz Eichler of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”: Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
Cincy Shakespeareâ€˜s â€œCat on a Hot Tin Roofâ€ is â€œmust-see Tennesseeâ€ Williams. The production, directed by Michael Evan Haney, delivers visually, with actors exploring the complicated characters with passion and gusto, and is a powerful use of CSCâ€™s new space.
The playwright, of course, needs some credit. Â Williams crafted this family drama that uncovers the convolutions of a Southern American family in the 1950â€™s. The play is about Maggie, trying to salvage her marriage to Brick, the son of Big Daddy, a plantation owner who is celebrating his 65th birthday. Thinking he just survived a cancer scare, Big Daddy is planning for a successor, hoping it to be Brick (who is currently drinking away the memories of his deceased best friend), ignoring his oldest son, lawyer Gooper and his wife Sister Woman and their 5, soon to be 6 children. Heâ€™s also ignoring his devoted wife, Big Mama, and the preacher, doctor, and house servants who have also gathered for the occasion. In the world of the 50â€™s and the family, Maggie knows a child is the only way to legitimize her and Brickâ€™s place in the family, so she desperately tries to understand why he drinks and why he is pushing her away. Â
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company has such a deep benchÂ that even smaller roles are played fully and with such skill, for example, Nick Rose, who just floored audiences with his Iago in â€œOthello,â€ shows the richness of his craft as the Doctor. But itâ€™s Jim Hopkins as Big Daddy whoÂ governs the show. Â Itâ€™s a role Iâ€™ve hoped to see him portray for yearsâ€”and heâ€™s big, blustery, and drives his agenda. Maggie Lou Rader as Maggie exudes sensuality. Grant Niezgodski as Brick athletically covers the stage, on one foot and a crutch. Directed for modern sensibilities, Brick explores a wide range of emotion, and Maggieâ€™s demonstrates strength as well as nervous desperation as a cat trying to stay on a hot tin roof. It is a great ensemble of performers. Amy Warner provides a loving yet quirky Big Momma, Justin McCombs is the dutiful Gooper, Kelly Mengelkoch is the delightfully pregnant and interfering Mae, Paul Riopelle is the Reverend with his hand out, and Ernaisja Curry, Candice Handy, Luke Randazzo, Charlotte and Henry Weghorst round out this amazing production.
The play is told in â€œreal time,â€ with the action portrayed lasting the span of an evening, all taking place in Brick and Maggieâ€™s bedroom, a beautiful, historic pressure cooker. Â The shouts of the party outside, the â€œno–neck monstersâ€Â running into the bedroom in the middle of heated conversations, and the thunderstorm are all visible because of the gorgeous louvered doors that open to the wisteria–covered veranda. Shannon Moore (Set Designer), Abbi Howson (Costume Designer) and Justen N. Locke (Lighting Designer) have really nailed it this time, showing off the new theatre to the hilt. Special kudos to authentic costume details, from garter belts to Big Mommaâ€™s corsage and wig.
The play is told in 3 acts, with Maggie dominating the stage and unfolding the story in the first act. Each piece of this story is deep and layered, exploring how this (and every?) family lies to each other, can be greedy, and filled with members who do not understand each otherâ€”or themselves. Â See â€œCat on A Hot Tin Roofâ€ and continue the conversationâ€”what do you think happens next?
â€œCat on A Hot Tin Roofâ€ plays through April 28. For tickets go to cincyshakes.org. Â