“The human animal is a selfish beast.”
Yes, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is back, with the Villanova Players’ rendition of Tennesse Williams’ Southern tale of social climbers, no-necked monsters, a decaying landed gentry and spastic colons.
Directed by Luke Monsour and presented at the Morningside Institute of TAFE, this production offers both the best and, let it be said, not so great aspects of what amateur local theatre offers. Williams will always sell and it is a play that audiences know well, but small production companies pit themselves against great odds when they choose plays that demand greatness.
Set in real time, the production technically achieves well with its set design, costumes and lighting, though a few stray shadows on the balcony could probably be re-worked. The cast’s momentum is constant and steady, and when only a few characters appear there is a strong rhythm that flows well. Unfortunately, however, this cadence is interrupted when most of the cast appear on stage, with an effect that is often both awkward and cluttered.
Brian Cannon as Big Daddy and Maria Plumb as Big Mama deliver excellent performances, and younger actors should pay close attention to how it is done. Jenny Woodall as Maggie also delivers a fine performance and bounces between her “charm of the defeated” and sultry seducer with fluid ease. Southern accents are difficult to pull off and both ranges of skill are represented here in all their naked glory.
To his credit Monsour has chosen Williams’ original ending: the tensions of a family crisis, a questionable inheritance, alcoholism and dubious homosexuality ultimately leave a more satisfying dialogue between cast and audience.
The actors have done better with the serious aspects of the play as compared to Williams’ subtler lighter humour and dialogue. If brooding silences and tension are your cup of tea, you are in for a thought-provoking night.