Theatre in the Park will present a community-theater production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, a 1955 Southern Gothic masterpiece of Modern Drama written by Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams(1911-83), on June 8-10, 14-17, and 22-24 in the Ira David Wood III Pullen Park Theatre in Raleigh, NC.
“I first saw the show after watching a performance that Sir Laurence Olivier did as Big Daddy four years ago in a 1970s production,” recalls director Ira David Wood IV. “I was already a Tennessee Williams fan; but after watching Olivier, I purchased the script the next day.”
He adds, “With the three lead characters being so intense and dramatic, [Cat on a Hot Tin Roof] opens a lot of doors for a cast and director to make the show a powerhouse. It’s a script that — when executed correctly — will have the audience on the edge of their seats.
“Rob Rainbolt and Sarah Bousquet as Brick and Maggie [Pollitt] make it a pure joy to come into work and all of us tackle and take a huge bite out of fiery drama together with pure passion and smiles on our faces every night,” says Ira Wood.
Sparks will also fly when Triangle theater legend John T. “Jack” Hall, as Big Daddy Pollitt, confronts his son Brick and daughter-in-law Maggie about a variety of issues, but especially their mendacity (lies) when they try conceal the sorry state of their childless marriage. The Theatre in the Park cast also includes Annabel Bloom, Dempsey Bond III, Randy Jordan, Brook North, Bonnie Roe, Mike Rumble, Erin Tito, JaCynthia Wallace, and Noah Daniel Zevin.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof made its Broadway debut, directed by Elia Kazan, on March 24, 1955 at the Morosco Theatre, where it played for 694 performances before closing on Nov. 17, 1956. That original Broadway production starred Barbara Bel Geddes as Margaret Pollitt, a.k.a. Maggie the Cat; Ben Gazzara as her husband Brick; Burl Ives and Mildred Dunnock as his parents Big Daddy and Big Mama Pollitt; Pat Hingle as Brick’s brother Gooper, a.k.a. Brother Man; Madeleine Sherwood as Gooper’s wife Mae, a.k.a. Sister Woman; R. G. Armstrong as Dr. Baugh; and Fred Stewart as the Rev. Tooker.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof won the 1955 Pulitzer Prize for Drama; and was nominated for four 1956 Tony Awards®, including Best Play, Best Director, Best Actress in a Play (Barbara Bel Geddes), and Best Scenic Design (Jo Mielziner).
The 1958 motion-picture version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was directed by Richard Brooks, who co-wrote the screenplay with James Poe. It starred Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie, Paul Newman as Brick, Burl Ives as Big Daddy, Judith Anderson as Big Mama, Jack Carson as Gooper, Madeleine Sherwood as Mae, Larry Gates as Dr. Baugh, and Vaughn Taylor as Deacon Davis. The film received six 1959 Academy Award nominations, including nominations for Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actor in a Leading Role (Paul Newman); Best Actress in a Leading Role (Elizabeth Taylor); Best Cinematography, Color (William H. Daniels); and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.
Theatre in the Park director Ira Wood notes that Cat on a Hot Tin Roof takes place in 1955 in a setting of “Antebellum Decay” in Mississippi in the old family home on the Pollitt plantation, surrounded by thousands of acres of land. Wood notes, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof … focuses on sexual desire, mendacity, depression, and facing death and alcoholism with a marriage ‘on the rocks.'”
In addition to director Ira Wood, the Theatre in the Park creative team for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof includes assistant director Cody Cunningham, technical director and set and lighting designer Stephen J. Larson, costume designer Shawn Stewart-Larson, sound designer Will Mikes, and stage manager Christine Rapp.
“With the cast we have,” claims Ira Wood, “[Cat on a Hot Tin Roof] promises to be a powerhouse of a production. Once the play begins, a metaphorical steel cage drops; and we get to see sparks fly between individually dynamic characters.
“Some may argue it’s hard to not just float by with such wonderful dialogue by Mr. Williams. This is just simply not the case,” says Wood. “The emotional level of the cast is always in high demand to be on a 10, and they have to bring it night after night and keep flexing the muscles that are not just on their bodies but in their hearts and souls. It can be an exhausting process for the cast; but it’s paying off for them, and will certainly pay off for the audience to enjoy.”
He adds, “In this production, the gears can shift so dramatically watching Sarah Bousquet and Rob Rainbolt, playing Maggie and Brick, that you may fear for Maggie’s life in one moment, and in the next 30 seconds wonder if they will just start making love. There are also tension breakers with natural comedy, which occurs in the dialogue with Brook North and Erin Tito’s take on Gooper and Mae without forcing to get a laugh. It’s refreshing as you are watching a marriage on the rocks and a shift in power (quite Shakespearean) with the illness of Big Daddy (Jack Hall).
“Another challenge [in staging Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for 21st century theatergoers] is how familiar the show is to an audience,” says Ira Wood. “However, although the audience may be familiar with the story, or may have seen another production on film or on stage before, the aim is to keep the audience engaged with the special differences and surprises this particular production is already promising to have.”
Theatre in the Park presents CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at 7:30 p.m. June 8 and 9, 3 p.m. June 10, 7:30 p.m. June 14-16, 3 p.m. June 17, 7:30 p.m. June 22 and 23, and 3 p.m. June 24 in the Ira David Wood III Pullen Park Theatre, 107 Pullen Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $22 ($16 students, seniors 60+, and active-duty military personnel).
BOX OFFICE: 919-831-6058 or http://www.etix.com/.
The Play: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_on_a_Hot_Tin_Roof (Wikipedia) and http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=2442 (Internet Broadway Database).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
The Playwright: http://www.olemiss.edu/mwp/dir/williams_tennessee/index.html (Mississippi Writers Page, compiled by the University of Mississippi English Department) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennessee_williams (Wikipedia).
The Film: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_on_a_Hot_Tin_Roof_(film) (Wikipedia) and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051459/ (Internet Movie Database).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
To start your FREE subscription to this newsletter, e-mail RobertM748@aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TTR in the Subject: line.
To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.