Kicking off its 15th anniversary of producing live professional theater in downtown Greensboro, Triad Stage is presenting “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
One of the reasons live theater is so popular stems from the way it thrives and consistently changes with setting, rehearsals and the breath of a live audience engaging in the story. It allows audience members to experience the same plays differently each time, and the laws of physics, technology and human error play big roles on performance nights. Live theater is often mesmerizing, messy and incredibly unpredictable.
Unfortunately for the performance on Saturday, Aug. 29, the production staff encountered soundboard-related technical difficulties.
Rich Whittington, managing director of Triad Stage, came onstage and informed the audience of what happened as the show had been delayed by 30 minutes. The audience was given the choice to either exchange their ticket for a later date or stay and watch the actors perform the play without sound cues.
It was a split decision between the audience members that night. Many left, but many others stayed. As they say in the world of theater, “The show must go on.”
“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” lasts just shy of three hours, with a fifteen-minute intermission between the first and second half. It was written by Tennessee Williams and is set during a muggy evening on the Mississippi Delta.
In “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” the life of a wealthy Mississippi family is turned upside down throughout the course of one evening. Celebrations and high spirits are a façade between companions throughout the play while hypocrisy and emotionally devastating family drama is abound behind closed doors.
Southern accents, broken ankles and hearts, infidelity and decades of lying make every relationship in this play anything but simple. The characters wear their emotions and jaded pasts on their sleeves no matter how hard they try to hide their true intentions.
The entire play takes place in a bedroom, dipped in gold and covered with ornate accents. It’s easy to spot that the once opulent furniture is past its prime, perfectly capturing the decay of Southern charm. Though it’s only in one room, the furniture is set to allow frequent movement.
“There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odor of mendacity,” Brick (Patrick Ball), an alcoholic man stuck in a loveless, sexless and childless marriage, states. His wife, Maggie (Christina DeCicco), is like a feline in heat as she prowls, hopelessly trying to gain any type of attention from her husband. He, however, is convinced she is the cause of his best friend, Skipper’s, death.
Maggie the Cat, as she’s referred to, is annoyingly bubbly in the beginning scenes as she tries to engage in conversation with her husband as he watches on in disgust, holding a drink in one and crutch in the other. She claims their marriage makes her feel like a “cat on a hot tin roof.” Brick’s misery is palpable despite his silence.
The family is gathered at patriarch Big Daddy’s (John O’Creagh), home for his 65th birthday. They are also celebrating the negative results of the cancer screening he had done earlier that day. His wife, Big Mama (Denise Lute) is ecstatic about the news and is trying to revive the family while the reverend (Josh Foldy) and Doc Bough (Ray Collins) ominously lurk in the background.
Between Maggie and Brick’s clear contempt for each other, his unwillingness to impregnate her and her will to survive regardless of the situation, Maggie must play a role she never asked for. She must convince his mother-in-law they are happy, and deal with shrewd remarks from her sister in-law, Mae (Katharine McLeod) who is bearing her sixth child all while playing up to her father-in-law’s wishes to inherit part of his fortune once he’s passed.
Maggie’s relationship with her sister-in-law is quite comical as they both try to grab the upper hand of whatever situation they are in. There is comedic relief and funny one-liners interjected throughout the play during its weighted, poignant moments of sadness, confusion and loathing.
DeCicco balanced her character’s anxiety and strength with grace while Ball expressively communicated through silence.
Their relationship is mirrored in Brick’s mother and father, who, once he finds out he is supposedly cancer-free, instigates a fight with Big Mama and states that in the past 40 years he never loved her.
Lute’s portrayal of undying love for a man who cares nothing for her was heart wrenching.
This play can feel long at times, but the talented cast makes the three hours worthwhile. The emotionally-charged and winding plot between unrequited lovers is not to be missed.
The performances will run until Sept. 20. Go to triadstage.org for more information.