Lineup of first-rate talent gives Cat on Hot Tin Roof' its power

December 05, 1991|By Winifred Walsh | Winifred Walsh,Evening Sun Staff

Degenerate characters congregate for a domineering patriarch's 65th birthday in Tennessee Williams' searing tale of greed, deception and loneliness, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."

The Harbour Theatre, in association with the Catonsville East Recreation Council, is staging a gripping production of the play at its new location in the Catonsville Skills Center on Bloomsbury Avenue through Sunday.

Considered by many as Williams' best play, the work paints a grim picture of the South the playwright knew so well. These are not likable people. They scheme, live lies and avoid facing the awful truth about themselves.

Director Richard Jackson has combined three versions of the work (as rewritten by Williams) to give his strong presentation the full power of the playwright's unique naturalistic poetry.

Jackson's production packs quite an emotional wallop. There is fine character development and excellent interaction between the actors. The cast (with the exception of a few minor roles) is first-rate.

The stage in the large auditorium seems immense, but Bob Bayer has managed to design an impressive, lavish Southern boudoir set with a flowery motif and a net-draped king-size bed.

On one side a well stocked liquor cabinet keeps favored son Brick in a bearable state of semi-consciousness. The death of his best friend, Skipper, the loss of his late, glorious athletic career and a broken ankle have sent him over the edge.

Since Skipper's death and its dark ramifications, relations between Brick and his wife Maggie, have chilled. The frustrated Maggie who says she "feels like a cat on a hot tin roof" in the turbulent household, is a nervous creature, pampered and childlike. Yet she is imbued with an earthy honesty the other ersatz family members lack.

Maggie is determined that Big Daddy (who may be dying of cancer) will not leave his fortune to Brick's greedy brother and his brood of "no-neck monsters."

Big Momma flutters about her old rake of a husband like a mother hen while he hurls unspeakable insults at her. Daughter-in-law Mae is sickeningly ingratiating in anticipation of all that money.

Laura McFarland is outstanding as Maggie. Sometimes a vicious gossip, sometimes a vulnerable child, sometimes the earth mother; the actress delves deeply into all facets of this mercurial role.

Timm Munn gives a fine performance as a brooding, unhappy Brick filled with self loathing. Yet Munn is too uptight and needs to open up (as his drinking continues) a whole range of emotions flecked with sardonic humor.

Mary Alice Feather convinces as a fluttery, clinging unstable Big Momma. Bob Nelson fills the bill of the crass, overbearing father. But Nelson seems hesitant in his lines and occasionally drops important timing.

Donald Joseph Koch is a properly snide Gooper. Kimberley Lynne sometimes overdoes the role of the grasping Mae.

*

Theatre Hopkins is presenting a delightful version of Jean Anouilh's "The Waltz of the Toreadors" through Dec. 15.

This sophisticated piece, laced with wry philosophical observations on the hypocrisy of some marriages and the dangerous illusions of love, has been directed with a light satirical hand by Suzanne Pratt. The story is set in General St. Pe's house in the South of France before the World War I.

The aging, still lecherous general is suffocating in a loveless marriage to a harridan, a former opera singer who keeps to her bed in order to keep tight reins on the hapless husband.

Suddenly a love from the general's past appears and the foolish man dares to plan happily for the future. He who should know better is finally undone by the vagaries of the love situation.

In the Hopkins production, the pace could stand quickening and the high comedy aspects heightened with a consistent stylized delivery.

J.R. Lyston as the general lacks the deft touch the role needs although he plays it with enjoyable lust.

Carol Mason as the general's wife is excellent. Swathed in luxurious satin bed sheets, Mason, is in turn, deliciously nagging, grotesque, paranoid, nasty, vicious and lonely.

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