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Theatre Review: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, September 24, 2010

"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" famously involves a marriage that's more like a battlefield. The husband Brick is a handsome former football star - wife Maggie feels like she's on the outside, looking in. 

"Brick, how long must this go on, this punishment. Haven't I done my time, haven't I served my term? Can I apply for a pardon?"

"Maggie, you're spoiling my liquor."

Alcohol is Brick's constant companion -- he's nursing the emotional wound left by the suicide of his old football teammate Skipper. Maggie knows that she's never gotten as close to her husband as Skipper did.

"I remember when we double dated in college, Gladys Fitzgerald and I, and you and Skipper… it was more like a date between you and Skipper. Gladys and I just sort of tagged along, as if it was necessary to keep up a good public impression."

If you're sensing that the two men's feelings ran deeper than friendship, you're right. But in 1958, Hollywood wouldn't go there. In fact, the movie version of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" is an hour shorter and much tamer than the play. But the Hollywood cuts are restored in this stage version, and the story becomes more complex and absorbing as a result.

Another asset in this small production is the larger-than-life performance by veteran actor Ed Claudio as the family patriarch, Big Daddy.  When he appears, he moves in like a bull in a china shop.

(party chatter, laughter)

"Big Mama, will you quit your horsing around. You're too old and too fat to be doing that crazy kid stuff. Messing with a stroke when you mess around like that."

Watching Claudio is like standing near a volcano and feeling the earth shake - eventually, things are going to blow.  Seeing him in the confines of a funky theater with a few dozen seats heightens the fiery impact. This three-hour, two intermission play involves something of a commitment from the audience. But it's worth it, because even though the low-budget production is almost scruffy at times, the actors really do tap into the raw, wild power of Tennessee Williams' script, and that script is a memorable piece of work.

"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" plays in the Wilkerson Theater at California Stage in downtown Sacramento through October 10th.


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