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BWW Review: Smoldering CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at Epic Theatre Company

Epic Theatre Company kicks off the new year with a delightful twist on the classic Tennessee Williams play CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Under expert direction from OUT LOUD Theatre's Kira Hawkridge, the talented cast bring this complicated story to life with minimal fuss and a strong focus on making the dialogue shine--as it should.

Taking place over the course of one day on the Mississippi plantation of "Big Daddy" Pollitt, the main conflict revolves around Maggie and her husband Brick played by Kerry Giorgi and David Sackal. Giorgi smolders as Maggie and her slinking and pouting are perfectly in sync with her nickname Maggie the Cat. She also manages to walk the line very carefully between complaining about her circumstances but not coming off as whiny or entitled. A large section of the first act rests on Maggie's shoulders, and Giorgi managed to carry the scenes very well acting opposite a Brick who was, appropriate to the scene, very bricklike.

David Sackal had the challenging task of making an inebriated character charismatic, while also seeming like he could fall asleep at any moment. The first few scenes got a little bogged down since Giorgi was doing all of the heavy lifting, but Sackal redeemed himself very well at the end of the first Act and into the second. After hearing only Maggie's side of their story, Brick has the challenge later in the story to make the audience empathize with him, and Sackal managed that very well.

The stage is set in the round, with several of the other characters sitting in the audience and joining the story as needed, which is an incredibly effective choice that communicates familial entanglement without having to beat the audience over the head with it. Since the play begins with Maggie and Brick in their bedroom, having the other members of the family right there gives a real sense of what little privacy they have, and gives even more credence to Maggie's complaints about how her marriage is not what she thought it would be.

Other unique elements that make this such a pleasure to watch are the moments of choreography--not quite dance, but deliberate movement that heighten dramatic moments. In particular, the scene where Brick is talking to his father about his relationship with Maggie. At first Maggie is standing off to the side, but as the story of their relationship becomes more entwined, so do Brick and Maggie physically. Director Kira Hawkridge's calling card is effectively using movement to tell another dimension of a story, and that works incredibly well here. Paired with a dramatic red light, this scene in particular pulses with emotion.

The cast is rounded out by some Epic favorites and some newcomers. Eric Behr and Michelle L. Walker are perfectly cast as Big Daddy and Big Mama. Walker has such a stage presence that even when she has no lines, you never lose track of her. Her portrayal of Big Mama is particularly satisfying in that instead of a humiliated Southern Belle fiercely loyal to her dismissive husband, she is much more of a defender of the family estate. The always excellent Stephanie Traversa almost makes a person wish that Mae had more stage time, and Jason Quinn does an excellent job as Reverend Tooker.

Even with a classic show like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Epic manages to change things up enough to keep it fresh and surprising, but still satisfy the purists. It almost seems impossible to do wrong by such excellent source material, but even with this solid foundation, Epic has managed to create something unique and compelling in its own right.

Performances: January 13th @ 8pm, January 14th @ 8pm, January 15th @ 3pm

*The performance on the 15th will be followed by a post-show discussion.

January 20th @ 8pm, January 21st @ 8pm, January 27th @ 8pm, January 28th @ 8pm

All Performances at the Theater 82, 82 Rolfe Square, Cranston RI.

Tickets $20 General Admission, $15 Seniors. All Student Tickets are Free as part of Epic's "Free Student Tickets" Program

Tickets can be purchased at:

http://www.artists-exchange.org/epictheatrecompany.html.

Photo: Kerry Giorgi and David Sackal. Photos by Dave Cantelli Photography.



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From This Author Andria Tieman