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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Review)

Covedale stages Tennessee Williams' challenging portrait of a family's corruption

By Rick Pender · September 12th, 2012 · Onstage
onstage 9-19 - cat on roof - covedale - mindy seibert (big mama) and brent alan burington (big daddy) - photo holly yurchisonPhoto: Holly Yurchison
Tennessee Williams was a brilliant American playwright, one of the most literary writers for the stage during the 20th century. But his works are not easy going for people seeking pleasant entertainment. For that reason, I was surprised that Cincinnati Landmark Productions chose Williams’s 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winner, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, to open its 2012-2013 season at the Covedale Center. That facility’s stock in trade has been mostly musicals and comedies. I’m pleased to report that the result is a credible if not especially memorable production.

Cat is not an easy piece of theater: There’s not a likable character in this tale of a greedy, selfish family. Almost everyone is circling around its cancer-riddled scion, Big Daddy (Brent Alan Burington), like vultures hovering over a dying beast. Most of them are obsessed with self-preservation. But they don’t hold their tongues, and Williams (who said this was his favorite play) fills their mouths with spectacular, poisonous vituperation.

Big Mama (Mindy Seibert) flutters and fusses, but she’s more concerned with her own future, despite her protestations.

Favorite son Brick (Clifford Nunley) is sullen and withdrawn, suffering the life of a closeted homosexual and disgusted with his existence. (He’s the only one who does not lust after inheritance; in fact, he’s trying to drink himself to death.) Brick’s wife “Maggie the Cat” (Katie Hamilton-Meier), with a powerful sense of self-preservation, constantly berates him. Older brother Gooper (Brian Griffin) and his manipulative wife Mae (Torie Pate) are simply venal, the parents of obnoxious, cartoonish children.

Directed by Greg Proccacino, Cat is populated with actors who have mastered each character’s central quality, but they stop there, never cohering as an ensemble. Burington has fire but not heft, and never really seems ill; Seibert is sympathetic, but too often drifts into caricature. Hamilton-Meier seems focused on being sharp rather than sensual. Nunley has more texture, but his self-loathing totally eradicates any sense of charm.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is about “lying and liars,” not to mention the disgust they generate. The characters spew self-serving versions of truth at one another, generating a powerful portrait of the corruption of a family. Kudos to the Covedale for taking a run at this great but challenging American drama.

CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, presented by Cincinnati Landmark Productions at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, continues through Sept. 30.



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