|Big Mama||Vicki Montesano|
|Big Daddy||Ralph Montesano|
|Reverend Tooker||Fred Broadbent|
|Doctor Baugh||Gary Boyer|
|Stage Manager||Cheryl Wenhold|
|Set Design||John Armstrong|
|Lighting Design||Dan Lewis|
By Myra Yellin Outwater
8:02 AM EDT, June 1, 2010
The Pennsylvania Playhouse production of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,"
Tennessee Williams' classic melodrama about sex, desire and family
dysfunction in 1955 Mississippi, is a tribute to the passion of
community theater. Director John Armstrong and his talented and well
cast actors tackle one of the American theater's most well known stories
with distinction and originality. The result is an absorbing story of
three couples coping with love, greed and guilt.
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION OF THE PRESS NEWSPAPERS
A cool 'Cat' at Pennsylvania Playhouse.
"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" is arguably one of, if not the, most powerful post-World War II American plays.
Playwright Tennessee Williams' indelible characters cling to a world of
hurt over the course of one hot, riveting summer evening on a 1950's era
"Cat," the 1955 Pulitzer Prize winner for drama, was revised by Williams in 1974. The numerous Broadway stage and television versions and especially the 1958 movie starring Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie "the Cat"; Paul Newman as her husband, Brick; and Burl Ives as Brick's father, Big Daddy, are tough acts to follow."
production of the Williams' classic, with concluding shows at 8 p.m.
June 11, 12 and 6 p.m. June 13 at Pennsylvania Playhouse,
The hard-hitting text is not obscured by overly-ambitious attempts to mimic southern accents. Armstrong has the cast approximate slight southern accents. This way, Williams' crucial and trenchant dialogue is not obscured by too much cornbread and molasses. Portions of Williams' script are pure poetry.
"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" has a brutal honesty, but underlying tenderness that's heart-breaking. Like the symbolic cat in the title, the Playhouses production hangs on and doesn't fall off.
The three-act drama is structured such that each lead has a spotlight turn. Act one is all Maggie's and Kelly-Anne Suarez is splendid in the role. If the sheer accomplishment of memorizing what is virtually a nonstop monologue isn't enough, Suarez nuances, cajoles and badgers the words - and Brick. Suarez's body language speaks volumes. She is sensual, but not sordid. She doesn't slip up.
Act two belongs to Big Daddy and Ralph Montesano cuts a splendid figure in a blinding white suit. With a gray goatee and leaning and slouching just enough to convey that the weight of the world - or at least the finest 22,500 acres west of the Nile - is on his shoulders, Montesano's is a towering performance, yet naturalistic and unaffected. Montesano is mostly measured in tone, except when exchanges with Brick demand that he bellow. Then, the fireworks aren't only beyond the veranda.
Montesano neatly conveys not only the larger-than-life figure, but the inner ornery cuss of the family patriarch. Montesano is amusing, when called for, and gets the play's biggest sardonic laughs.
Brick is the human punching bag in the first two acts, when we learn about him, Maggie and Big Daddy. Keith Moser conveys the put upon diffidence of one who has given up, resigned to resignation and a viewpoint that nothing matters except, for him, his next drink. Moser creates a young man who has "the charm of the defeated," as Maggie describes him, withdrawing to live -- rather, exist -- in his own little world.
Vicki Montesano as Big Mama brings an emotionally-battered dignity as the family matriarch. She stands by her man, right or wrong.
Jen Kurtz as Mae creates a peevish indignation that is horrifyingly compelling.
supporting roles are Joe Klucsarits as Mae's husband Gooper, and Sophia
Gonyo as their daughter,
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