BWW Review: CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at Austin Shakespeare
Within the gorgeous Rollins Theatre in a 1950s plantation-bedroom set we are transported into the mind's eye of the genius that is Tennessee Williams. All of the supporting elements are here - an elaborate but not overbearing set, great lighting, sound, and props, beautiful costumes, wigs and make-up, nothing omitted, nothing overlooked.
Gwendolyn Kelso's Maggie is desperate to keep her "Boy 'o mine" Brick - (Zac Thomas), who is pleasantly buzzed while (literally) a three-act play rages all around him. Add to that the palpable tension of Big Daddy's tenuous health and the angst it engenders, not to mention the annoyances that are Mae, Gooper and their "no-neck monsters". Conspicuously absent but always near the surface is Brick's late best friend Skipper, the one person Brick could always count on for support.
Ciccolella's program notes reminded me of the many iterations through which Cat on a Hot Tin Roof evolved, and here we have the perfectly-balanced masterpiece I like best. This version reveals that Big Daddy (Ev Dunning, Jr) is surprisingly the most open-minded character, Big Mama (Elise Ogden) the superglue holding everything in place, and poor Gooper (Robert Deike) the clan's second fiddle has only the stalwart Mae (Corinna Browning) to love him. Doctor Baugh (Derek Webster) and Reverend Tooker (Patrick Schmidt) add comic relief, support the family and provide a sketch of the community's attitudes toward the Pollitt dynasty.
This notable cast delves deeply into the psyches of the characters: Maggie truly loves Brick and cannot forgive herself for Skipper's suicide. Brick's grief for Skipper is deeper than anyone else can understand. Big Daddy claims to despise Big Mama but doesn't believe it and Big Mama will follow her husband into death as quickly as did the plantation's original owners. Gooper and Mae are actually likable, well-meaning people who want to be acknowledged of their value to the family legacy.
Tickets for Austin Shakespeare's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof are available at: thelongcenter.org