Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tennessee Williams's work about a marriage riddled by alcoholism, unfounded allegations of homosexuality and failure to meet high expectations, is a modern American classic. Ted Caplow's production does not disappoint--indeed, this is an admittedly traditional production marked by solid acting and fine direction. Caplow stays true to the script and opts for the alternate ending which Williams wrote for the original Broadway production.
William's story is set in a guest bedroom of a large plantation in the Mississippi Delta. The play centers on the faltering marriage of Brick (David Javerbaum) and Maggie (Cori Lynn Peterson) Pollit. Brick has turned to alcohol as an escape from Maggie, whom he can no longer love. Brick's disdain for Maggie has caused the couple to live without children--something unacceptable in the eyes of Big Daddy (Stanley Sneeringer) and Big Mama (Janine Poreba) Pollit.
Caplow's beautiful set enhances the production. A large bed dominates the stage, symbolizing the failure of this marriage. Caplow also makes use of the small couch that Brick chooses to occupy each night rather than having to sleep with Maggie. The last important piece of the set is the bar, which becomes Brick's central concern.
Williams's powerful script requires strong performances from the main characters. And Peterson and Javerbaum rise to the occasion. Peterson gives an urgent performance that moves the audience to feel her need for love and attention from Brick. In scenes with her sister-in-law Mae (Heather Hughes), Peterson displays just the right amount of spite and hatred, while still retaining her Southern manners.
Javerbaum is perfectly removed as Brick, the ex-football player turned alcoholic. Shattered by the death of his friend and teammate, Skipper, Brick is even more hurt by the accusations that these two friends were homosexual lovers. For much of the play, Caplow has Javerbaum hover in the background as he drinks himself into peaceful oblivion. The few times that Javerbaum is required to express rage are more believable when contrasted with his normal drunken indifference.
As Big Daddy, the patriarch of this affluent planting family, Stanley Sneeringer gives the standout performance. When Big Daddy is on stage, he dominates both the action and the dialogue. When he yells for quiet, he gets it--and if he does not get it immediately, he lets go an even more enormous shout.
Although some of the problem stems from Williams's script, the minor characters in this production still do not receive adequate attention. Gooper, Brick's older brother and a successful Memphis lawyer, is played tepidly by John Rosetti. As Mae, Hughes exhibits enough shrewishness to make her dislikable, but not enough to make her detestable.
Finally, Poreba's Big Mama is completely dominated by Big Daddy. Williams's script calls for a short, stout woman to play Big Mama, a necessity to counteract Big Daddy's imposing size. Poreba is miscast as Big Mama and cannot make her own presence felt on the stage.
It has been said that a production can be only as good as its script. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof boasts a terrific script, and both cast and director, with few exceptions, rise to the task of putting on an enjoyable show.
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