Cat On A Hot Tin Roof
May 28, 29, June 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 2010

MargaretKelly Suarez
BrickKeith Moser
MaeJen Kurtz
GooperJoe Klucsarits
Big MamaVicki Montesano
SookeyChristine Gonyo
Big DaddyRalph Montesano
Reverend TookerFred Broadbent
Doctor BaughGary Boyer
ChildSophia Gonyo
ChildDylan Gonyo
Production Staff
DirectorJohn Armstrong
Stage ManagerCheryl Wenhold
CostumerNate Kuhns
Set DesignJohn Armstrong
Lighting DesignDan Lewis

Cast Photos
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Pennsylvania Playhouse's
'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' good, solid drama

By Myra Yellin Outwater
Special to The Morning Call

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.

The play opens in the bedroom of Brick, the self-loathing, alcoholic younger son of Big Daddy and Big Mama. Maggie, his desperate, almost hysterical, wife has been put down again by his brother's very pregnant wife Mae.

Kelly-Anne Suarez gives a both heartbreaking and histrionic performance as this scorned and childless wife,. Keith Moser's Brick is at first a quiet and detached presence. In second act, in what is a poignant scene with Big Daddy, he comes to life, exploding with anger, disgust and emotion.

But it is the entrance of Ralph Montesano as Big Daddy that really makes this drama come alive. Montesano is both emotionally and physically a larger than life presence. It is almost painful to see this powerhouse of a man begging his son to explain why he has become a drunk and to watch this man of such basic desires struggle to understand the obvious why.

Montesano gives one of his strongest performances ever, giving the self-made Big Daddy a touching humanity as he tries to save his favorite son with the same strong arming that helped him amass his large fortune. Montesano skillfully mines the humanity of Big Daddy, a man who painfully learns that he is unable to control his own mortality or manage his family as easily as he has his fortune.

Vicki Montesano, Ralph's real life wife, adds emotion and feeling to the role of Big Mama, a woman conditioned to endure and abide her husband's insults. She is a touching and sad figure, a woman desperately in love and so hungry for any bits of affection that she ignores insults and tirades as well as the seething anger and hatred brewing in her family.

As the vindictive Mae, Jen Kurtz adds a bitchy humoras she revels in fueling her husband's greed and spreads gossip to provoke Maggie and Brick.

And the scenes in which the two sisters in law compete for Big Daddy's attention are good, solid drama. The bare set design reminds us once again that theater showcases life's dramas and conflicts to help us deal with our own.

Myra Yellin Outwater is a freelance writer.
Jodi Duckett, editor, 610-820-6704
Copyright © 2010,
The Morning Call


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 Mississippi plantation.

"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."

The production of the Williams' classic, with concluding shows at 8 p.m. June 11, 12 and 6 p.m. June 13 at Pennsylvania Playhouse, Bethlehem, is commendable in performance and direction. John Armstrong, directing from the 1974 version, illuminates the text, almost in a documentary style. Williams' characters don't mince words. Neither does Armstrong's direction.

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.

In supporting roles are Joe Klucsarits as Mae's husband Gooper, and Sophia Gonyo as their daughter, Dixie, and Dylan Gonyo as their son, Sonny.  Fred Broadbent is Reverend Tooker, Gary Boyer is Doctor Baugh and Christine Gonyo is Sookey the maid.

Paul Willistein
Focus Editor
610-625-2121, ext. 3711

The Focus section, where the focus is on you, your lifestyle, and Lehigh Valley arts and entertainment, and business, each week in all eight newspapers of The Press: East Penn Press, Salisbury Press, Parkland Press, Northwestern Press, Whitehall-Coplay Press, Catasauqua Press, Northampton Press, Bethlehem Press

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