Vanessa Cantley & Max Bolton in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Photo courtesy CenterStage.
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof
By Tennessee Williams
Directed by John Leffert
Review by Brian Kennedy
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Brian Kennedy. All rights reserved
With a great first two acts and a lackluster closing act, Tennessee Williams’ well-known play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is now open at Centerstage.
The play deals with the Pollitts, a southern plantation family in the 1950s that is facing several issues at the same time, including mendacities, or deceptions, mortality, sexual tension, and alcoholism.
The last two are especially true for married couple Maggie and Brick, who lead off the play. Maggie (Vanessa Cantley) is frustrated with Brick’s (Max Bolton) drinking and general disinterest in basically everything, including making love to Maggie. The rest of the family, particularly the snobbish Mae (Jennifer Poliskie) is well aware of this fact and routinely points it out.
Maggie’s dissatisfaction comes out beautifully in the first act. Cantley had her work cut out for her in these early scenes, carrying the focus with only Brick and a couple of lines from others. Still, Cantley rises to and even exceeds the challenge. One could watch her move through the scenes, dancing ever so subtly between frustration, humor, flirtatiousness, and desperation, and not only understand her needs and desires but also get a great idea of what the rest of play’s themes will be. The first act, where she is most used, ended way too soon.
Brick’s indifference, meanwhile, was frustrating to watch. Certainly not because of Bolton, who does a fine job with the character. But because, instead of doing more that even his family knew he could be doing, he was just there, not caring about anything, and drinking his life away. It was hard to like him but also hard to hate him, especially once it became understood in the second act why he drank so much. Bolton does a great job playing on that line, although he had some issues with consistently projecting to the back rows.
The rest of the cast performs well in spots. The sarcastic banter between the childless Maggie and the three children, not to mention the very pregnant Mae, was spot on. The conversation between Brick and Big Daddy (Rick O’Daniel-Munger) goes through a wide-range of emotions that were perfectly executed and drove the last half of the second act. The children (Gillian Dickinson, Ryan Stockler, and Finnegan Broyles) were bratty in the most superb way.
The third act, though, lacked the energy of the first two acts. Maybe it was because the show was already two hours in. Maybe it was first-night jitters. Still, it really felt like the tempo of this act, where secrets are revealed and plots are resolved, should have been faster. Unlike the first two acts, it was a chore to watch this one.
Still, go see the show for the great character work, especially Cantley, the first two acts, and because it is a classic that has issues still relevant in a contemporary world.
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof
Thursday, Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 18 at 2 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 24 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 25 at 2 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 25 at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $20 in advance, $22 on Saturday night and Sunday matinees, $2 “at the door” charge
Jewish Community Center
3600 Dutchman’s Lane
Louisville, Kentucky 40205
Brian Kennedy is a nearly life-long Louisville resident who has performed in plays since 2004. He also wrote extensively about the Louisville theatre scene for Louisville.com and Examiner.com from 2009-2015. Currently, he maintains the theatre blog LouBriantheater. When not involved in the theatre scene, he is an avid runner, participating in 5Ks throughout the state and in southern Indiana.