Tennessee Williams’ sizzling, Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” is being wonderfully revived at Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC) in Norwalk. Kevin Connors, MTC’s Co-Founder, deserves high praise for his insightful direction and for successfully undertaking this intense drama when many can still recall the stunning performances of Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman and Burl Ives in the 1955 award-winning film version.
In Conner’s well-considered open staging, the jealous interactions of a Southern family, and how their patriarch’s imminent death brings out the worst of each member, will hold you spellbound throughout this entire, two-act play.
The striking feature of Tennessee Williams works, are his meaningful words and how his characters make you really care about their situation. In “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” rather than a marching band and parade of “no neck kids” interrupting the scenes by running throughout the house on “Big Daddy’s” birthday, Connors cuts to the chase and allows you to savor William’s important words instead. You might even be tempted memorize the playwright’s well-crafted jabs at life.
When Maggie rightfully declares, “…you can be young with money but you can’t be old without it,” and among “Big Daddy’s” many reminisces “… the human animal is a beast that must die … if he’s got money, he buys and buys everything he can with the hope that it will be everlasting when it cannot be …” these sharp expressions hits the audience directly and elicits sympathetic reactions. However, the main subject of this particular work can be summed up by only one word “Mendacity.” The term is hard to ignore because this rarely used word and the lying actions associated with it are repeated throughout the piece.
“Maggie” (Andrea Lynn Green) is the estranged in-law who reacts like a stray cat that is forced to jump “… on a hot tin roof” when confronted by her husband’s problems and his family — all of whom act like a pack of vicious dogs. Like the other family members, she lives in the same plantation house with her husband, Brick (Michael Raver), which gives the couple very little privacy. Something else besides family jealousy and booze is blocking the two from having living a normal married life, and as sexy as she tries to be, drunken Brick isn’t interested. That “something” is taboo to openly discuss, especially in that time-period, and therefore hard to confront until “Big Daddy” (Frank Mastrone) cuts through the “mendacity” of his family, admits to his own “mendacity,” and faced honestly embraces his beloved son.
As they dance around each other, Andrea Lynn Green digs in her nails, while giving this cat-like role her own, very human interpretation, while Michael Raver’s “Brick” offers tense retorts and mostly physical reactions to her manipulative ploys. Frank Mastrone gives a very powerful performance as “Big Daddy,” and, Cynthia Hannah’s conniving; “Big Mamma” is so true to life that you will feel as if you are sitting right in the middle of the family’s living quarters. The supporting cast: Mae/”Sister Woman (Elizabeth Donnelly), Gooper/”Brother Man” (Robert Mobley), Doctor Baugh (Jeff Gurner) and Reverend Tooker (Jim Schilling) all contribute to MTC’s very moving production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Plays to November 18 Tickets: 203-454-3883
This review appears in “On CT & NY Theatre” November/2018