Want to see typical southern gentility conquered by raw human desire? Well, look no further. Rockville Little Theater with Director Seth Ghitelmen deliver with their season opener, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The often produced, classic show from celebrated playwright Tennessee Williams is frequently described as Williams’ personal favorite of his desirable body of work. The show has been produced six times on Broadway, the first in 1955, the same year it was honored with the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
The story is set on a plantation in Mississippi in the post WWII era. The entire show taking place in the bedroom of our leading pair Maggie “the cat” Pollitt (Elizabeth Keith) and Brick Pollitt (Greg Lang), skillfully designed by Robert Thompson. Thompson uses a scrim to create the walls allowing the areas just outside of the bedroom to be revealed with the correct lighting, designed by Maria O’Conner. This was an excellent use of the space, adding a dazzling touch of realism to the production. O’Connor also delivers a well-crafted fireworks display at the end of the show that is just beautiful.
Also, striking are the costumes, designed by C. S. Ferguson. Ferguson perfectly captures the style of the era, particularly with the costumes of Maggie “the cat.” Maggie is adorned is pale tones, the second party dress with light blue lace was beautiful.
Elizabeth Keith is lovely as the sensual, hysterical Maggie. Keith plays the iconic Maggie in a restrained manor, offering a subtle approach to the unraveling life of the leading lady. Keith’s monologue about her husband’s relationship with his friend Skipper is particularly poignant. She delivers the part well.
Playing her husband and leading and is Greg Lang as Brick Pollitt. Lang is attractive as the brooding, broken man. It is hard to like a character like Brick with his disdain for his wife and family and his grotesque amount of drinking, but Lang evokes a sense of compassion and empathy as we follow him through his story. Lang is touching as he exclaims his embarrassment of his father’s claims about his relationship with Skipper in the second act.
Outstanding performances were easy to find in this production. Bill Hurlbut as the vulgar yet somehow stately Big Daddy was excellent. He delivers a moving performance as he lectures to his son Brick about the responsibilities of being an adult, his drinking problem and treatment of his wife. Equally talented is Sally Cusenza as Big Mama. Cusenza is sympathetic as the bawdy matriarch. You feel for her as she grasps at any sense of compassion from her discourteous husband, Big Daddy. Cusenza also adds some of the best comedy of the evening with her animated style, the moment when she exclaims “Ever seen a preacher on a fat lady’s lap?” after she has pulled Reverand Tooker (Art Salwin) into her lap is delightfully inappropriate. Salwin’s facial expressions are priceless as the confused and oh too polite preacher.
Also excellent is brother Gooper Pollitt (Mark Steimer) and his family, including his wife Mae Pollitt (Annette Kalicki) and children; Trixie (Ella Coulson), Buster (Jeffrey Sampson), Sonny (Daniel Schorr), Dixie (Meghan E. Stone) and the smallest, adorable Polly (Sari Gabel). Steimer and Kalicki are pleasantly vicious as the couple scheming to steal away their dying father’s inheritance. Kalicki delivers a particularly enjoyable portrayal of the “society wife,” her snarky attitude towards her sister in law is perfect. The children also have moments to shine, one stand out moment is when Dixie (Meghan E. Stone) proclaims to Maggie that, “You’re jealous . . . You’re just jealous because you can’t have babies,” when she demands they leave the room.
Ghitelman and his players have created a solid production with first-rate designs. Come see the southern gentility melt away as raw human desire take over in this tough to conquer piece of literature. There is only one weekend remaining for this incarnation of the classic play, so make time to catch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof this weekend!
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof plays through October 19, 2014 at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre at The Rockville Civic Center- 603 Edmonston Drive, in Rockville, MD. For tickets, call (240) 314-8690, or buy them at the box office, which is open Tuesday through Saturday from 2-7 PM. Here are directions.
Running Time: Two and a half hours, with one 15-minute intermission.