Cat on a Hot Tin Roof took the stage for Chamber Night and Student/Press Night. Critics Becky & Kevin Blalock penned a review just in time for opening night:
Even if you’ve never seen Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” you’ve definitely heard of this famous work. The play is arguably one of the most recognizable stage pieces of the 20th century. Williams even declared it his favorite script. And now you have the opportunity to see this American classic on the Plaza stage.
The story centers around the Pollitt family and the dark revelations that unfold one humid evening at their Mississippi plantation. Just as the characters are oppressed by the sweltering weather, so too are they trapped under a web of deceit and resentment. Passive-aggressive remarks clothed in Southern charm pervade the play’s dialogue to great effect. You will simultaneously laugh and wince at the characters’ callous conversations with one another.
Benjamin Wandell plays Brick, exuding a simmering anger and quiet despair. His deep regrets in life center around the personal and professional, and he deals with these losses by climbing inside a bottle. Wandell is excellent in the role – charming, pathetic and imposing all at once. His wife Maggie is played by Emma Yates who imbues her character with shattered pridefulness. Maggie is a woman hopelessly seeking her husband and his family’s approval. She hopes to use the bedroom to earn back her husband’s love, but the audience knows it will take much more than that to repair this contentious relationship. Yates is wonderful as Maggie. She not only displays charisma but also a sense of desperate need. The role requires her to deliver mountains of memorized lines (briefly injected with responses from her husband) and this she does skillfully all while captivating our attention.
Plaza veteran Reagan Wrench delivers a sensational performance as the family patriarch, Big Daddy. The character is a man reborn, recently delivered a clean bill of health by his doctor after previously believing he was dying of cancer. As such, he spends much of his time strutting around and proclaiming his importance and newfound virility. But like all the characters in this play, his story is informed by deceit and tragedy. Wrench too must deliver massive monologues, but our focus never wavers when he takes the stage. We see glimpses of the man this character was, as well as the man he wishes to be. Wrench’s Big Daddy is commanding and pompous, a stern husband and father. He seems to condemn his son for pushing his wife away while actively railing against his own spouse. Jami Hughes is delightful as Big Mama, a woman unable to deal with her present situation who constantly chooses to ignore the apathy (or anger) shown to her by her son and husband. Hughes utilizes her character’s willful ignorance to great comedic and later tragic effect. We can perhaps understand why the men in her life find her presence excruciating, yet we pity her for the situation she finds herself in.
The Pollitt family is rounded out by Brick’s older brother Gooper (Darin Mielke) and his cloying wife Mae (Al Folmar). Gooper and Mae assume they are the favorites and heir apparent to the family fortune. They have provided the Pollitt lineage with five (soon to be six) children and hold this as their greatest source of pride. It is also a fact which is slung bitterly into the faces of the childless couple Brick and Maggie on a consistent basis. Gooper values propriety, yet we feel his resentment for his brother seething beneath the surface. He is a man striving to receive power and recognition, and Mielke displays these qualities quite convincingly. Folmar as Mae is perhaps the comedic highlight of the production, embodying the snide nature of an egotistical woman whose need to prove herself results in delightful displays of pomp.
Although the story primarily focuses on these six characters, the supporting cast helps to elevate the production overall. They punctuate the proceedings with essential information as well as bright moments of levity, and we commend their contribution. We must also recognize the guiding hands of director Quinn Wrench and assistant director Lauren Orsak. These ladies infuse the proceedings with a steady focus; they skillfully direct our attention in this dialogue-heavy production and maintain tension throughout. The set design is also well-realized, providing the audience with the believable illusion of a room and balcony in a traditional plantation home.
This classic play is a universal tale of rejection, desire and guilt. All the characters constantly deceive each other and themselves as they struggle to find meaning and acceptance in their lives. By the story’s resolution, they all seem to reach some form of reserved acceptance — or rather a purposeful delusion. In the case of these characters, there seems to be no escape from their dire situations. They are all cats trapped on a hot tin roof. They can either continue to be burned or jump wildly into the unknown. The true meaning of their final decisions will be discussed by the audience long after viewing this excellent production.
You can catch the performances at the Plaza Theatre April 21-23, 27, 29 and 30. Tickets are available online now. Please be aware that this play does contain adult situations and language, so parental discretion is advised.
ABOUT KEVIN AND BECKY: Kevin and Becky Blalock are a couple from Houston, Texas who love all things film & theater. They met in an art class in 2006 at Sam Houston State University where they formed a close friendship that eventually grew into marriage. Today they enjoy spending hours discussing movies together, and they own/operate a small graphic design business in west Houston where they continue to pursue their love of art and creativity daily through the work they do for clients. They have two cats and a turtle who all seem ambivalent to their love of art.