Sex. Lies. Secrets.
Sounds like some 21st century reality TV program.
But, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, by Tennessee Williams was written in 1955 over a half a century before reality TV made it acceptable to air such personal behaviors.
The Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s production of Cat, once again reminds us that sex, lies and secrets are a timeless human condition.
As they gather to celebrate “Big Daddy” Pollitt’s (Joe Vincent) birthday, the Pollitt family is suffering through their own set of sex, lies and secrets. Brick (Michael Ellison) and Maggie (Trista Moldovan) are distressed over the condition of their deteriorating marriage (sex). Big Mama (Kathleen Doyle) and Big Daddy are buoyant at his recent medical diagnosis (lie). Son Gooper (Brian Wallace) and daughter in law, Mae (Amy Tribbey) are tormented to think they will be left out of the family will, and ultimately, control of the family’s vast Mississippi Delta estate (secret & lie).
Trista, although stunning, is a burdensome Maggie. Her character must carry nearly the entire first act, and it takes much effort for her to do so. An initial reaction is, “when will she ever stop talking?” As a self described “cat” Maggie is expected to be lithesome and slinky. Trista’s Maggie is clunky and slow. Unfortunately, she is burdened with the images of her on screen predecessors, Elizabeth Taylor and Natalie Wood. Michael is a substantial Brick, the former football star turned alcoholic. However, Brick must limp around stage with an ankle cast and single crutch. It would be blasphemous to fault the legendary playwright Tennessee Williams for writing the character with such an impediment (the crutch being a metaphor for his alcoholism, perhaps? Or being emasculated by his wife? Or clinging to his belief that he is heterosexual?), but it was so distracting to watch Brick hobble and jump around stage, that no one got to see the Brick fraught by guilt, anger and shame.
The second act is energized by Joe Vincent’s “Big Daddy.” He is pompous, arrogant, irreverent and damn funny. As he forces Brick into a “Father/Son talk,” Big Daddy shares more than enough information about his feelings (or lack thereof) for his family members, including Big Mama. Kathleen Doyle as Big Mama, is a true southern lady – trying to serve her husband, children and grandchildren. And she isn’t too “big” or over bearing, fluidly accepting her secondary marital role. Another second act surprise is the performance of Brian Wallace’s Gooper, the older but always neglected son. Gooper is grasping franticly, at not only the family estate, but for love and recognition from his parents. Amy Tribbey is a stoic wife, and is his staunchest supporter, fighting to the end to see that Gooper gets what he deserves – and raising his five “no neck monsters” in the process.
Mike Nicholl’s stage is stunning – oozing southern humidity and decadence.
The Rep’s production must be seen. It is raw and gritty. It explores a damaged, dysfunctional family that is far superior to any reality TV.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof runs February 5 – February 21
Wednesday curtain 7 p.m
Thursday, Friday, Saturday curtain 8 p.m
Sunday curtain 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Added performance, Tuesday, Feb 16th @ 7pm
Single ticket prices start at $20. Discount rates are available for groups of 10 or more. To purchase tickets, buy online or call The Rep Box Office at (501)378-0405 or 1-866-6THEREP.