'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' sizzles at Reduxion
“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” is one of Tennessee Williams greatest plays, telling the story of an extremely dysfunctional Southern Family. Terry Veal directs for Reduxion Theatre, and his concept creates the perfect atmosphere.
The family patriarch, Big Daddy, is flawlessly portrayed by Mark Loftis. Big Daddy is dying from cancer, but he believes he has conquered the disease. He must be told the truth so the family decides that his landmark 65th birthday party is the best time to reveal the negative results of the doctor’s report. Doctor Baugh, played by Matt Barger, should know better than to do this, but he attends the birthday party and exhibits a very ineffective bedside manner. Barger walks a fine line with perfect caution, demonstrating that a smaller part may be pivotal and must be absolutely real. The family assumes that a preacher would be an important addition to this shindig, and the young Reverend Tooker, captured by Brandon L. Nalley, arrives hat in hand, displaying his supreme lack of religious authority.
Big Daddy has two sons, Gooper and Brick, and two daughters-in-law. He has a loving wife called Big Mama. In this production, there are two grandchildren racing about the house creating the impression of half a dozen. He feels very strongly about truth and specifically hates mendacity. Son Gooper is married to Mae, mother of the chaotic crew and eager to increase the herd with the new ‘bun in the oven.’ Brick is the favorite son of Big Daddy and is married to Margaret (Maggie, the cat). She has no children to impress Big Daddy but she has the spirit he admires. Maggie, portrayed by Crystal Ecker, shows the wisdom as well as the cruel wittiness in that cat.
They all expect to inherit a substantial estate from Big Daddy, but only one will be the prime beneficiary. Big Daddy, not realizing he is ill, likes to pit his sons against one another. He wants them to be strong and tenacious as his own youthful self. Big Daddy is also cruel to Big Mama (Brenda Williams), his wife of nearly 49 years. In spite of the pain he causes her, Big Mama knows their love is strong. Williams is one of Oklahoma City’s most skilled actresses; her portrayal of Big Mama is heart wrenching and comic. The blend is seamless and Big Mama’s love and faith in her family is evident. She is also unaware of his true medical condition. Her family expects that she will fall apart when she learns the truth, but only briefly. She will also be the rock that gives Big Daddy love and comfort during his cantankerous decline.
Gooper and Mae are both avaricious. Craig Pruitt as Gooper displays the best and worst of the uninspired accountant. Claire Powers as Mae unabashedly uses her children as emotional bribery even as she chastises them for their behavior. The two children, Preston Simpson as Buster and Nicole Hartwig as Trixie, are wonderful. They command the stage as if they were six children, exactly as they should. Simpson and Hartwig are excellent casting choices.
Favored son Brick is a former football hero. While he has not found success or accolades as an adult, he has found alcohol; he pours drink after drink throughout the show. Marty Rogers plays Brick well, yet his alcoholism is not clearly demonstrated. Otherwise, his character is basically perfect and his handsome visage seems to exaggerate his connection to the past. However, acting as sober as a judge impacts his connection with Maggie the cat. Promoting Brick as a high functioning alcoholic may be valid, but his apparent sobriety does not work dramatically.
This production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” is an outstanding example of Veal’s direction. An accomplished actor as well as director, Veal obviously connects with Tennessee Williams and has passed that connection on to his cast. The most notable performances are from Brenda Williams as Big Mama, Mark Loftis as Big Daddy and Crystal Ecker as Maggie; these actors present the pinnacle of dramatic truth—not mendacity! “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” also has great support from a creative crew. Scenic Designer Uldarico Sarmiento and Costume Designer Jeffrey Meek create dynamic visuals. Angela Marks Hawthorne bathes the characters in perfect mood lighting.
“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” plays at City Space at the Civic Center Music Hall in downtown Oklahoma City through June 13 and at The Visual & Performing Arts Center at OCCC from June 19 through June 27. Visit www.reduxiontheatre.com for information or call 405-604-4730.