Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
No matter what version of Cat of a Hot Tin Roof one might use when reviving this play, if the leading characters aren't portrayed well, the whole show will sink. Fortunately, this Cat on a Hot Tin Roof comes up all aces. The first act belongs chiefly to the character of Maggie, and Andrea Lynn Green gives a scorching and luxurious performance in this role. Dressed in just a slip, she prowls the stage and she fully earns being referred to as "Maggie the cat." Her portrayal is incisive, powerful and sexy. At the start, Michael Raver, as Maggie's husband Brick, clad in a towel and on crutches, seems to just serve as a sounding board for Maggie. But don't let that fool you. Raver's performance is a slowly simmering one, as he takes drink after drink, trying to feel the "click" in his head that will give him peace. His Brick builds strength as the play progresses, to the point that his presence onstage, especially in the second half, becomes as fiery and significant as Green's Maggie.
Cynthia Hannah as Big Mama is a heartbreaker in this show, particularly Big Daddy speaks to her so cruelly near the end of the first act. She seems to be completely devastated after this vicious scene, but Hannah gives the character a real spine, and she comes back fighting, both for her place in the family and as a woman who refuses to crumble, no matter what she is faced with. Frank Mastrone's Big Daddy is entirely her equal, and then some, giving perhaps the most outstanding performance in the show. Faced with the prospect that he may be dying of cancer, Big Daddy is a tower of strength throughout and Mastrone is most effective in his lengthy scene with Raver's Brick in the second half. Through the dialogue between father and son, the elements of homosexuality and Brick's close relationship with his deceased friend Skipper come to the forefront.
The rest of the company, even with these four very strong leads, still makes an impression, particularly Robert Mobley as Brick's brother Gooper, and Elizabeth Donnelly is a real fussbudget, with an edge, as his conniving wife Mae.
The physical production is also splendid, with remarkable work by scenic designer Kelly Burr Nelsen and ideal costumes provided by Diane Vanderkroef. The lighting design, by Michael Blagys, is prominent and appropriate for the show, almost shaping each scene.
It's great to see this play presented in its original Broadway version, and that alone would make this production something of a must see. Yet director Kevin Connor and his blazing cast at Music Theatre of Connecticut leave a searing mark on Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that truly lingers.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, through November 18, 2018, at Music Theatre of Connecticut, 509 Westport Ave., Norwalk CT. For tickets, please visit www.musictheatreofct.com or call the box office at 203-454-3883.