Cat on a Hot Tin Roof brings dysfunctional family drama to Drury Lane | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof brings dysfunctional family drama to Drury Lane 

It's a 65th birthday party Big Daddy will never forget.

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Brett Beiner

Well, this comes as a surprise. In a season that will go on to featureMamma Mia!, Little Shop of Horrors, and Disney's Beauty and the Beast, at a suburban theater where the usual nonmusicals are chestnuts like The Gin Game and Deathtrap, somebody thought to revive Tennessee Williams's wonderfully lurid 1955 drama of family dysfunction, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

The cat of the title is Maggie, wife of former football hero Brick and daughter-in-law to the formidable Big Daddy, self-made man, whose Mississippi Delta farm holdings comprise, as he loves to say, "28,000 acres of the richest land this side of the valley Nile." All three of them are in the crises of their lives. Although still a beautiful specimen at 30, Brick has become a determined drunk. Big Daddy is fending off mortality and the vulture-ish kinfolk who hope to inherit his empire. And Maggie, made fierce by the deprivations of her shabby-genteel upbringing, is ready to hiss and purr and burn her paws on that scalding roof if it means keeping what's hers. Under the circumstances, Big Daddy's 65th birthday party promises to be quite an event.

Williams's script contains some of the richest characters and plot convolutions this side of King Lear. And under Marcia Milgrom Dodge's direction, on Kevin Depinet's evocative set, such cast members as Matt DeCaro (Big Daddy) and Anthony Bowden (Brick) take fascinating advantage. Cindy Gold, particularly, brings tragic gravitas to Big Daddy's much-abused wife, Big Mama. Which makes it all the more disappointing that Genevieve Angelson never quite latches on as Maggie. The explicitly acknowledged life force of the play, she comes off as merely plaintive.   v

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