BWW Review: CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at Oyster Mill Playhouse
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, by Tennessee Williams, premiered on Broadway in 1955 at the Morosco Theatre. The play, set on a plantation in the south, explores the relationships between members of a family as they face jealousy, greed, hypocrisy, and death. One of Tennessee Williams most famous plays, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof has been adapted for the screen in a 1958 film and two television versions. It has been revived on the stage numerous times, and now this Pulitzer Prize winning play can be seen on stage at Oyster Mill Playhouse through October 13th.
As always, the production crew at Oyster Mill pays attention to every little detail. The lighting and sound effects for the fireworks and the storm are well-designed. While the set isn't my favorite from this season at Oyster Mill, the French doors leading to the veranda and the painted overhanging tree branches are a nice touch. Unfortunately, the bare floors were a bit loud and over-powered the lines at times, especially when the children were running across or when the women wearing heels were walking quickly.
While Cat on a Hot Tin Roof focuses on seven main characters, there are several minor characters who round out the ensemble. Doctor Baugh, Reverend Tooker, and the children-Trixie, Sonny, Dixie, and Buster-appear at various times throughout the show. In his main scene in act three, Ron Nason's Doctor Baugh remains calm and collected as he delivers the bad news to the family. While his performance in that scene is as clinical as I would have expected, with terrible bed-side manner, in the earlier scenes in which he appeared as one of the guests at the party, I found myself wondering who this person was and why he was there. He didn't really seem to be in character, at least not any particular character I could identify. Reverend Tooker is another character who pops in periodically, but Graham Woods does a great job at maintaining the Reverend's feeling of discomfort and desire to be anywhere but where he was in each scene even when he didn't have any lines. Gracie Sorge, Andrew Powell, Clarissa Feichtel, and Brody Verlin take on the roles of Mae and Gooper's children, or the no-neck monsters as Maggie refers to them. Their characters are delightfully annoying and ill-behaved, just as they should be.
The main characters in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof are complicated with deep, often hidden emotions. It takes a great deal of care and attention to bring these characters to life, and the cast at Oyster Mill is up to the task. Collins Wilson and Gretchen Ray play Gooper and Mae, Gooper is a lawyer and the oldest son. His big moment comes in act three when he confronts Big Mama not only about who should take over the plantation but also about the years of resentment that have built up because of how Big Daddy and Big Mama favor Gooper's brother, Brick. Wilson really shines in this scene, seeming to keep his character's rage boiling just under the surface. Gooper's wife, Mae, is a force to be reckoned with. She is overbearing and conniving. Ray is brilliant in this role, using her facial expressions and gestures to emphasize her disdain for Maggie and Brick while trying to insert herself into their relationship with Big Daddy and Big Mama.
Two of my favorite characters in this performance were Big Mama and Big Daddy. Played by Annie Sorge and Jonathan Morgan, Big Mama and Big Daddy truly are the matriarch and patriarch of their family. Sorge and Morgan have wonderful stage presence. Sorge's posture and body language are carefully crafted to highlight her character's southern charm and poise. Her interactions with the other characters feel sincere and help to highlight the reasons for Mae and Gooper's resentment toward Brick and Maggie. Morgan's Big Daddy is truly bigger than life. In his pivotal scene with Brick in the second act, Morgan manages to combine Big Daddy's powerful persona with a truly genuine concern for his son and the future of his legacy. Morgan and Sorge's performances alone are well worth the ticket price.
Michael Zorger and Mary Geraci take on the lead characters of Maggie and Brick. While Zorger's Brick may not show the range of emotion with which other actors have approached the role, I really appreciated his interpretation of the part. Through his tone and expression, he emphasizes the description of his character as someone who speaks softly. He is the opposite of his wife, sister-in-law, and parents. In the first act, Zorger plays up his character's indifference toward his wife and their marital problems, only showing real emotion when the topic of his friend Skipper comes up. He is consistent in his portrayal of Brick throughout the show, and in his scene with Big Daddy we come to realize that his attitude is one of a feeling of disgust toward himself. When he talks with Big Daddy about Skipper in this scene, it is one of the most heartfelt and beautiful moments of the show. Geraci is amazing as Maggie. She is simultaneously strong and vulnerable, and she starts the show off just right in the first act as she tries to draw Brick out of his self-imposed emotional exile. Her feelings toward her sister-in-law and nieces and nephews are written all over her face every time she talks about them or has to deal with them. Geraci's Maggie is poised and in control even as she faces her husband's indifference, her sister-in-law's snide comments, and the impending death of her father-in-law. It will be difficult for future Maggie's to match Geraci's performance in this production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
While Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is not a play one would describe as "enjoyable", Oyster Mill's production of this classic show is beautifully emotional and thought provoking. Get your tickets for Oyster Mill's production at www.oystermill.com.