Written by: Tennessee Williams
Directed by: Marcia Milgrom Dodge. At: Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. Tickets:: $38-58. Runs through: Aug. 26
Drury Lane Theatre is presenting the Tennessee Williams classic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, directed by Tony nominee Marcia Milgrom Dodge.
The first thing you notice is the overwhelming Southern gothic set by Kevin Depinet. It looks like Tara from Gone with the Wind after it's been shelled by Yankees. This is not a luxurious home people are fighting to inherit but a symbol of the rot inherent in the lives of this family overwhelmed by disease, desperation and greed. It's emotionally on target, if a bit awkward at times for some of the staging. Shutting a door on someone isn't dramatic when there are no doors.
Maggie is a wife trying to deal with the alienated affections of her husband, Brick, who is descending into the bottle after the death of his best friend. As portrayed by Genevieve Angelson, Maggie is less of a sultry siren than a desperate Southern belle. She is more a grown-up Elle Woods ( from the Legally Blonde movies ) than a Liz Taylor type. It works here because your sympathy lies with her, as it should, and may be a more realistic portrayal of a woman than some other takes on this character.
Anthony Bowden's Brick seems a little less tortured but totally distracted and uninterested in anything but his drink. I didn't get the menace when he threatens Maggie or enough of his pain over the death of his friend. However, he does rise to the occasion with the scenes of him and his dying father, Big Daddy.
Matt Decaro's Big Daddy really brings out the joy of man who thought he was going to die but thinks he has a second chance at life. He is very believable in his lust for life and his love for his son. Cindy Gold's Big Mama ranges from high camp to utter strength. The audience loved the gross-out humor, but I think if she were a bit more wounded by Big Daddy she could break a lot of hearts. When she has to take over for Big Daddy, she is a force. Michael Milligan does his best with a thankless part as the unloved older brother, Gooper, and Gail Rastorfer, as sister-in-law Mae, is never as villainous or cloying as she should be. If she can relax ,she'll nail it and steal scenes.
Marcia Milgrom Dodge's direction keeps the characters moving so this never feels stagey or overdramatic ( except, perhaps, the Addams Family style tableau at the beginning ). The incredible set causes some awkwardness for her, however. The real star of this show is Tennessee Williams' playwhich was way ahead of its time with gay content and still seems ageless in the family-drama canon.