Maggie the Cat (Liz Fletcher) is back–She’s alive and, well–sensational as she claws her way across the the Raven Theatre’s stage in the near purr-fect revival of Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize winning Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955).
I may be bias, but “Cat” has always been one of my favorites. I like how it covers the sorry parts of the human condition from drugs, alcohol, power struggles, depression, homosexuality, death, mendacity and greed mixed with a few laughs to keep the audience from overdosing. Whether you see it for the first time or the umteenth time, its rich, poetic language is fresh every time you hear it.
More than 50-years ago, at the time of the original Broadway production (March 1955-November 1956) at the Morosco Theatre, the subject matter was revolutionary. Today we look at it through a different lens. Although dysfunction still runs rampant in today’s society, we have become politically correct–and are no longer innocent.
The steamy Mississippi Delta is the setting for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Unbeknownst to Big Daddy (Jon Steinhagen), he is dying of cancer, and this will be his last birthday party. The event brings out the worst in every member of the wealthy Pollitt clan. At the heart of the story is Maggie, the beautiful daughter-in-law, who struggles with a lack of emotional honesty from her husband, Brick (Jason Huysman), and with the jaded judgment of Brick’s brother Gooper (Greg Caldwell) and wife Mae (Eleanor Katz). “Brother Man” Gooper and “Sister Woman” Mae, along their five little “no-neck” off-spring, think their family will be the trump card to Big Daddy’s affections, aka, inheritance over Big Daddy’s favorite son Brick–an alcoholic ex-football player who drinks his days away and resists the affections of his wife Maggie–thus is childless.
The Raven Theatre production is well cast. 13-year Raven ensemble member Liz Fletcher as
Maggie handles the daunting 40-minute near-monologue of the first act with poise and a commanding stage presence. She also resembles the 1958 film’s Maggie played by Elizabeth Taylor. Jason Huysman plays the moody, scotch-infused Brick as the sensitive, depressed man that was, silently re-acting to those around him early in the play and then later revealing some of what was eating him up in an amazing dialogue with Big Daddy. Multiple Jeff award winner, Jon Steinhagen’s Big Daddy kept the play on track with his razor-sharp acting skills. Artistic Director Michael Menendian put emphasis on
the special relationship between Big Daddy and Brick, especially in act three, where their mutual disgust with mendacity resonates beyond what I have seen in other productions. JoAnn Montemurro’s Big Momma delivered her memorable lines with just the right inflections, “When marriage goes on the rocks, the rocks are there”, she says pointing to the bed, “Right there!” Other cast members include Mike Boone (Reverend Tooker) and Jonathan Nichols (Dr. Baugh).
The design staff includes: Ray Toler (Set Designer); Andrei Onegin (Technical Director); Kelly Dailey (Scenic Artist); Christine Ferriter (Lighting Designer); Mina Hyun-Ok Hong (Costume Designer); Katherine M. Chavez (Sound Designer) and Mary O’Dowd (Props) and Leif Olsen (Composer). Jen Short serves as stage manager and Justin Castellano serves as Asst. Stage Manager.
Performances continue Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m.
All performances take place on Raven Theatre’s East Stage, 6157 N. Clark. $30 all regular performances. ($5 off the regular ticket price for students/seniors)
Founded in 1983, Raven Theatre is dedicated to breathing new life into American classics and exploring other works that illuminate the American experience, with occasional forays into world classics. In addition to its regular season, Raven produces a Workshop Series of new and experimental productions, as well as an Educational Outreach program, including teaching partnerships with various Chicago Public Schools, summer youth classes and original children’s shows performed at Raven Theatre
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