“Time goes by so fast. Nothin' can outrun it. Death commences too early--almost before you're half-acquainted with life--you meet the other.”
So says Big Mama in Tennessee Williams’ acclaimed “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” It’s a sentiment that continues to resonate with theatre audiences, along with the play’s themes of greed, desire, and truthfulness – especially when delivered masterfully. And powerful performances are just the blessing you’ll receive over at Theatre Rocks! production of the play, which closes this weekend.
Director Bill Rhoten does a beautiful job of living up to expectations for this play, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1955 and has continued to be an audience favorite for decades. In his capable hands, the dealings and deceit between members of the wealthy Mississippi Pollitt family unfold magnificently.
The family has gathered together at the family plantation home to celebrate the 65th birthday of Big Daddy Pollitt. He has just returned from the Ochsner Clinic and is delighted with his clean bill of health. As the audience quickly learns, this report is a lie. All of the patriarch’s family members except Big Mama are aware that Big Daddy is actually dying of cancer.
Jim Fallis sets the mood between scenes playing his mournful saxophone. The strong cast includes Mike Self as Doctor Baugh and Ben Rosewell as Reverend Tooker, both of whom are in on the deception; the doctor must eventually deliver the bad health news to Big Mama and the reverend has his eyes on a possible windfall for the church.
Joe Skrivanek as Gooper and Dawn McCallum as Mae give outstanding turns as Big Daddy’s oldest son and daughter-in-law scheming to secure the Pollitt fortune for themselves. Kinzie Kay Bowling, Zachary Brennan, Alexandra McDonnell, and John McDonnell add exuberant life as their children, the “no-neck monsters,” as their aunt Margaret dubs them. Charlene Andrews and Barbara Webb lend charm and energy as frazzled servants in the Pollitt house.
But the play’s success rests squarely on the shoulders of Sheryl Sullivan as Big Mama, Olon McClendon as Big Daddy, Aaron Green as favorite son Brick and Samantha Jo Green as Maggie, the “Cat.” Each of these experienced actors gives a powerhouse performance.
Sullivan is a delight to watch; she has a marvelous range of emotion in her portrayal of the matriarch who has doggedly stood by her man, regardless of his callousness. McClendon delivers that callousness – along with disgust for Mae, admiration of Margaret, tenderness for Brick, all of Big Daddy’s flaws and flair – with a brilliant ease and naturalness.
Green delivers his lines in a perfect understated alcoholic haze, breaking through with intense emotion at just the right moments. And Samantha Jo Green, Aaron’s wife in real-life, is mesmerizing as she keeps up her constant, lonely prattle and examines her beautiful reflection in the mirror.
And that, unlike the web the characters weave, is no lie.