REVIEW: CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at Vintage Theatre

by Ryan August

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Vintage Theatre was triumphant. This play is no less than a masterpiece and the cast rose to meet the occasion. Tennessee Williams weaves himself through both Maggie and Brick with dexterity and vulnerability in the writing of this script, and Kelly Uhlenhopp along with James O’Hagan-Murphy delivered performances of which he would be proud. The theater evoked a closeness to the action that increased the feeling (already present in the script) that the audience is another member of the family. The set in the first act is the perfect presentation of a Southern home, and I was at first apprehensive of how the whole plot of this show could fit into this room. However, as the show progressed, and the façade of the family began to fall away, so too did the carefully crafted set. The room chosen as the container for this beautiful story won me over entirely due to excellent direction by Bernie Cardell. As the story unfolds, you begin to feel the discomfort felt by each of the members of the family about the ears in the walls and the lack of privacy. Jan Cleveland and Rick Long as Big Mama and Big Daddy were devastating in the most delicious way. Every performance in this production was like finding a pearl in an oyster.

Many times, as a lover of the theatre, I query about why Artistic Directors choose plays and musicals for the season. This production silenced this question for me quickly. This script has aged like a Bordeaux. What was once an incisive display of male fantasy in Maggie, has matured with the passage of time into a modern woman stuck in a marriage free from the gender roles that would suit her and full of the gender expectations that leave her wanting more. Brick as a character has a verdigris accrued through the decades since this play was written. He was once considered a weak man characterized by his lack of sexual desire and assumed homosexuality. Through new eyes as a generation, we are now able to see him as a man in great pain who has experienced exponential loss; it is through this understanding that we can have respect and sympathy for this man. Both characters were ahead of their time; arguably more at home in this decade than that which they were written. I merely with Tennessee Williams was able to see not only what this play has grown into, but the masterful production I was lucky enough to witness.

 

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