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Review: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Tyler Gillespie says the NOLA Project's production of the Tennessee Williams classic was a stunner



There are truths couples have a hard time saying to each other, such as, "We aren't sleeping together anymore," and "I drink too much." When the truth is difficult, people often aren't honest, and that type of mendacity causes turmoil for the entire family in Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, produced by the NOLA Project at the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival.

  Married couple Brick (James Yeargain) and Margaret (Cecil Monteyne), aka Maggie the Cat, have no children and their lack of intimacy, both physical and emotional, is causing distress. The two live with Brick's family, including his mother, brother, sister-in-law and their kids, at a large Mississippi estate owned by Brick's father Big Daddy. The home's walls are thin and family members are always listening, so the couple's relationship problems do not stay secret for long.

  In the wake of a close friend's death, Brick began drinking heavily. Maggie contributed to the decline of their relationship at the same time she worked to re-establish a sense of security with her husband. As Maggie, Monteyne delivered a commanding performance, exuding sensuality, humor and some craziness. It was a joy to watch Monteyne work through Maggie's range of emotions, and Yeargain played Brick in a layered way, as well. Brick is ostensibly a drunk, but that masks his inner turmoil. Williams made Brick both complex and fragile, and issues about his sexuality were left to interpretation. Brick is a sympathetic character, and Yeargain gave him the depth he deserves.

  Much of the drama surrounds the failing health of Big Daddy (Randy Cheramie) and to whom he'll leave his fortune. In spite of Big Daddy's illness, Cheramie gave him a booming, stage-filling presence. Big Daddy is awful to Big Mama (Yvette Hargis), but he is somehow lovable as well. Hargis stole a few scenes with spot-on comedic timing and her woe-is-me delivery.

  Big Daddy's other son Gooper (Andrew Vaught) tries to position himself as the inheritor of the estate, and the prospect of the patriarch's illness adds urgency to his efforts. Gooper and his wife Mae (Natalie Boyd) have four children and a fifth on the way. They use Mae's fertility to convince Big Daddy they deserve to carry on the mantle of the family and the estate. Mae is a catty character and Boyd's sharp one-liners provided some funny moments.

  Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which premiered in 1955, explores complicated family issues while yielding sexy and memorable dialogue. From the beautiful set to polished acting choices, The NOLA Project did a great job with the show and honored Williams' work. — TYLER GILLESPIE

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