Prince George’s Little Theater Cat on a Hot Tin RoofBy Mari Davis • Oct 21st, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Prince George’s Little Theater
Bowie Playhouse, Bowie, MD
Through October 24th
$15/$10 Seniors/18 & under
2:30 with one intermission
Reviewed October 17th, 2009
Tennessee Williams’ classic story Cat on a Hot Tin Roof depicts a family confronting the proverbial elephant in their living room. It is a strong play that takes a very frank and hard look at family dynamics. Unfortunately for audiences, this production, directed by Erica Drezek and produced by Robin Davis, exhibited mediocrity punctuated by a few weak moments and even fewer strong moments. The show was long, even tedious at times. Although the set was very nice and the actors were generally acceptable, the quality components of the production tended to be negated by long stretches of monotony.
The play was too long. The first act lasted 80 minutes. With a fifteen minute intermission and second act, the show lasted two and a half hours. Now, length is not necessarily the issue; portions of the show are necessary for exposition, but so inordinately dull that I wondered how the end of the show could ever arrive. The story is worth sitting through (now that I am aware how long it will take), but make sure that you go in prepared to sit for a good, long while.
The set was cleverly done with a few long scarves hung to separate the house from the yard. The walls, door, and a dressing table were supplemented by the audience’s imaginations. This removed many visual barriers, but created potential for subtle faux pas, such as walking through (or sitting on) the dressing table, opening an already open door, or standing outside a room through a wall. Otherwise, the set was neatly constructed with striking warm and cool color contrasts that emphasized the richness of posh Southern living.
I found that the best actor in this production had command of several different props with which to occupy his character when not delivering lines. Brendan Perry (Brick) kept his character in constant motion whether walking with his crutch, lolling his head, preparing and consuming his drink, or scratching at his cast. Perry provided nuance, continuity, and personality for Brick. His performance was one of the strong supports for this production.
Bobbie Carter played Maggie, Brick’s frustrated and neglected wife. Her performance sufficiently complimented Perry’s. Carter’s enormous monologues were delivered without any discernable errors. At times her character seemed to drift around the stage with no deliberate purpose. Whether that was caused by loose blocking or lack of character motivation, it weakened her character. Overall, her performance was pleasantly satisfactory.
Mary C. Koster, in the role of Mae, “Sister Woman,” did a decent job understanding and playing her character. My main criticism of her performance would be her inability to maintain posture as a pregnant woman, devoid of the aches, weight, and fatigue of pregnancy. It was extremely distracting to watch an obviously very pregnant character dart across the stage like it was nothing.
Another character that impressed me was Gooper, “Brother Man,” played by Mike O’Donnell. Other characters showed emotion in their roles, but O’Donnell was the first to use volume to convey his character. I wondered if other actors could be heard in the back of the theater, but when O’Donnell delivered his first line it was perfectly audible.
Ken Kienas performance of Big Daddy was good, but not stellar. It was clear Kienas had examined his character and begun to own it as an actor. Unfortunately, he was insufficiently intimidating. Like Carter, he was a victim of loose blocking. His vocal quality was an odd fit for his role and he should have been directed to compensate with increased physical presence.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a strong play, but weakly presented by PGLT. Make sure to go in prepared to sit awhile. Enjoy the pretty set, but try not to notice the mistakes with invisible set pieces. Listen to the actors and enjoy the moments of good action.
How does one choose a play to direct? Sometimes, directors get to make choices they never thought of. When PGLT contacted me about directing Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, my first response was, “I never thought of that play” because I was interested in directing again. My second thought was that this was exactly what I would like to do. The three full-length plays I had previously directed were Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe?, Dancing at Lughnasa, and The Octette Bridge Club. Plays with a lot of drama that I absolutely love to work on, and this was an excellent next step.
To start, on has to pause to remember what it was like back in the early 1950s with its stereotyping, the unspoken existence of homosexuality, and the social castes of a southern plantation. This was also a time to possibly relive family dynamics that never seem to go away, no matter how old we get. And we got to answer the long-standing question: Is Brick a homosexual?
Another layer of this play was the music. Who knew there was so much music? I didn’t catch that the first few times I read the script, but there it was in the small, italicized print?song after song after song. The dynamics between the music and the drama on the stage just never seemed to be in full bloom until you put them together. It was simple, yet, but powerful.
This has been a wonderful cast to work with. Each rehearsal, the actors began to dig deeper and deeper into their characters. The children couldn’t wait to shoot their guns in grown-up faces, and the tech crew magically planned what they would do. It has also been a wonderful way to get to know more about Williams’ work; all the detail written in the script left me admiring his way of thinking and his ingenious way of tying scenes together.
So turn off your cell phone, and leave your work and worries behind. Let the lights dim. Stop and enjoy Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as it takes you away into another world.
- Lacey: Isadore Mizell
- Mae Sister Woman: Mary C. Koster
- Maggie: Bobbie Carter
- Brick: Brendan Perry
- Dixie: Jade Kienas
- Daisy: Josephine Duffy
- Trixie: Annabel Baniak
- Rev. Tooker: Robert Thompson
- Dr. Baugh: Kristopher Northrup
- Sonny Owen Baniak
- Gooper Brother Man: Mike O’Donnell Brightie: Scott Bringen
- Big Mama: Carole Long
- Big Daddy: Ken Kienas
- Director: Erica Drezek
- Producer: Robin Davis
- Stage Manager: Diana Ho
- Set Design: Erica Drezek, Roy Peterson
- Set Construction: Cast, Crew, Members, and Friends of PGLT
- Set Decoration: Robin Davis, Erica Drezek
- Lighting Design: Garrett Hyde
- Sound Design: Scott Bringen
- Bowie Playhouse Theater Technicians: Al Chopey, Pete Dursin, Garrett Hyde
- Properties: Robin Davis
- Costume Coordinator: Jenna Jones
- Transportation Chief: Keith Brown
- Front of House Coordinator: Eugenia Sorgnit
- House Manager: Roy Peterson
- Box Office Manager: Sarah Potter Robbins
- Box Office Assistant: Richard Robbins
- Program Design/Lobby Display: Roy Peterson
- Ticket Takers/Ushers: Danny Brooks, Connie Carter, Rose English-Arredondo, Millie Ferrara, Rich Fogg, Sheri Fogg, Dan Lavanga, Mark Nelson, Mac Shawe, Roney Shawe, Eugenia Sorgnit, Donna Wells
- Publicity: Jenna Jones, Roy Peterson
- Web Site (www.pglt.org): Kristofer Northrup, Pamela Northrup
- Photography: Kristofer Northrup
- Program Cover/Publicity Artwork: Michele Stinson
Disclaimer: Prince George’s Little Theater provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. PGLT also purchased an advertising banner on the ShowBizRadio web site.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/4254.
Mari Davis is a student of Speech and Communication at Northern Virginia Community College. She has been involved in the performing arts since the age of five when she debuted as the Little Red Hen on an elementary school stage. Her career includes both national and international ensemble performances with semi-professional choirs, various roles in community and college musicals (both onstage and off), as well as co-directing drama camp for Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA.