If there ever was a playwright who mastered the art of presenting a heavy theme that satisfied the audience in an entertaining and thought-provoking manner, it was Tennessee Williams.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, arguably Williams’s opus, explores the theme of untruthfulness. No one wants to tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The truth is that people simply can’t handle the truth. They can’t handle telling it or receiving it, and most people have a hard time even perceiving it.
In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the Pollitt family is gathered in their estate mansion to celebrate Big Daddy’s birthday. The tragedy and crux for the theme of mendacity is Big Daddy’s cancer, a reality the family keeps from him and Big Mamma.
The Segal Theatre presents William’s 1955 Pulitzer prize-winning classic for the first time since it ran at the Centaur Theater in 1991.
If you haven’t already seen the play, go check it out before it leaves our fair city for another decade or more. The story is eloquent and clever. The acting is, for the most part, superb. And the overall enjoyment of the play was beyond expectation.
Directed by Greg Kramer, the three-part play is lavishly set on a beautiful stage designed by John C. Dinning that evokes auspiciousness and half-shuttered privacy over an ornate southern style décor.
The first act is a 40-minute bicker fest between Maggie (Severn Thompson) and her husband Brick (Todd Sandomirsky). The two remain composed in their respective corners of the room – Maggie tests her allure in a silk slip, but Brick doesn’t look beyond the glass of whiskey he keeps topping up. Ever since his football buddy Skipper died, the ageing jock can’t face the world sober. He’s in crutches because he broke an ankle during the previous night’s 3 a.m. hurdle mishap.
“People like to do what they like to do after they’ve stopped being able to do it,” he says.
Brick’s brother Cooper and his overbearing, overly fertile wife Mea are also present with their five “neck-less” kids. Big Daddy’s birthday be it may, Cooper, Mae and Maggie are after the real present: the family estate inheritance.
Big Daddy doesn’t enter the scene until the second act. Played by Berry Flatman, his mighty timbre and larger-than-life style boom over the crowd demand almost full attention when onstage.
The family is excellently portrayed under Kramer’s direction. Big Daddy is commandeering, while Big Mamma is sweet as pie. Maggie is one hot cat, whereas Cooper and Mae are delightfully awful. The only role that seems to idle and stall at times is Sandomirsky’s Brick, who can’t seem to click into the part. He remains unattached and unaffected by the play despite being cast as a star quarterback.
At one point when a cell phone rang in the crowd, Sandormirsky looked in the direction of the interruption as if to look for an exit or an excuse to break from Brick’s role. Still, he makes it through the show, gaining strength and some confidence while the rest of the cast brought the show to a winning finish.
Cat on Hot Tin Roof plays until Nov. 16 at the Leanor and Alvin Segal Theatre. A special rate of $22 applies to students. Call the box office directly at 514-739-7944 to avoid service charges.