Sleek Cat without claws

By Alidor Aucoin on November 13, 2008

Barry Flatman  as Big Daddy, the dying patriarch of a decaying Southern family is alone worth the price of admission to the uneven production of the Tennessee Williams Classic, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Segal Centre for the Performing Arts at the Saidye.

Flatman blows the roof off of the show.

The play is fuelled by passion, rage and impotence.  It’s about family relationships where kinship is built on mendacity - a house of lies that not only damage the psyche but cripple any real chance of love  or affection. Flatman roars through the role like a wounded beast trying to escape a steamy  swamp as he attempts to address the demons that have led his favourite son, his golden boy, Brick, (Todd Sandomirsky) to become a wasted alcoholic.

In an unsual take on the story, director Greg Kramer makes the father-son confrontation the focus of the play.  Brick’s troubled marriage to Maggie (Severn Thompson) that normally drives the plot is peripheral in this production. That may be because Sandomirsky dodesn't do much with the role.

He limps around the stage on crutches mourning the death of his football buddy.

He is not the crippled Alpha male that the script calls for,  a “superior creature,”’ and a  godlike being,” - rather, he's just another, bored and boring passive drunk.

Thompson, as Maggie, is good as far as she goes. She has the “smile of a beggar and the claws of a cat,” that Williams describes. She yearns beautifully as she prattles on and on in the first act. Her Maggie is one cool cat, a detatched feline who can take care of herself.

Since Sandomirsky doesn’t always pull his weight, there is no spark between the two of them.  Maggie seems resigned to the fact that her husband is exactly as Williams described his character in a letter to film maker Elia Kazan, “a homosexual with heterosexual adjustment, ... one of those people who are  undersexed and prefer pet racoons or sports or something else to sex with either gender.”

Sharon Baker’s Big Mamma pulls off some of the best lines of the play, but she’s  not quite as refined as Big Mamma should be.

Bill Bill Croft and Paula Jean Hixon, as the parents of five “no-necked,” obnoxious children do an efficient job of portraying repulsive red-necks.

The children in the show are all inevitable scene stealers.

John Dinning’s set evokes a decaying Southern Plantation, but it’s too busy, and its distracting multi-levels leave an audience confused trying to imagine where all the walls in the mansion are - and aren’t. Its a set that doesn’t serve the production very well.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof runs until November 16.

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