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July 16, 2008 > Theater Review: A superb cat

Theater Review: A superb cat

By Julie Grabowski

"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" first appeared on Broadway in 1955 to instant acclaim and success, earning its author Tennessee Williams his second Pulitzer Prize and third Drama Critics' Circle Award. Retold in an Oscar-nominated film, two television specials and several stage revivals - including this year's return to Broadway - the story of a patriarchal family locked in lies, greed, and repression still wields its power with plenty of force as the cast of the Douglas Morrisson Theatre so admirably show.

Gathered in a plantation house in the 1950s Mississippi Delta, the Pollitt family celebrates Big Daddy's 65th birthday, hiding the news that he is dying of cancer. Their main concern, however, is which of his two sons will inherit the vast estate; everyone strives to appear in the best possible light. Gooper seems in prime position with five heirs and a sixth on the way, while the favorite son Brick and his wife Maggie remain childless. Sexually frustrated Maggie the Cat is determined to heal their fractured relationship and ensure their future, desperate for her distant husband to return to her bed and produce a child. But Brick is only interested in his alcoholic pursuit of peace, adopted to erase the guilt and turmoil over the suicide of his homosexual best friend and his own confused feelings.

The production is taut and humming with tension throughout, Williams's complex characters fully inhabited and sharply delivered by the cast. Jillian O'Malior is assured and captivating as Maggie, determined and alive as the Cat herself. She only meets her match when Dean Creighton appears as the acidic Big Daddy. He is a wholly fierce and frightening patriarch with nary a misstep. Shawn Aaron impressively handles the apathetic Brick, balancing vacancy and explosiveness with commendable skill. The best interplay occurs between Creighton and Aaron as father and son undertaking the difficult task of true communication. These players are the clear trifecta of the evening, yet ably supported by the rest of the cast, including an enjoyable Leslie K. Whitehead as the fertile and sneaky Mae.

Kim A. Tolman's set has a wonderful voice of its own; lazy leaf paddle fans turn over crisp white furniture, draperies and doors of a bed/sitting room, creating a cool contrast to the hot blood and desperation of its inhabitants. Draping black trees that frame the stage seem to allude to the presence of crisis. Another wonderful feature is the beautiful backdrop of a cocktail sky moving us through the evening in melting mango, raspberry and grape hues.

"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" is a solid and moving play, a must for anyone interested in good drama and a piece of classic American theatre.

Tickets are $22 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $15 for juniors and students. To purchase tickets call (510) 881-6777. Learn more about Douglas Morrisson's current production and the 2008 season at

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
July 11- 27
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 p.m. (Sundays at 2 p.m.)
Douglas Morrisson Theatre
22311 North Third Street, Hayward
(510) 881-6777
Tickets: $15-$22

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