Presented by: The London Community Players
Directed by: John Pacheco
Featuring: Robert Mills, Mara Fraccaro, Catharine Sullivan, John Garlicki, and others.
Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is one of the most celebrated works in the American dramatic canon. Set in a room of the plantation home of Big Daddy(John Garlicki) situated in the Mississippi Delta, the play centers around the relationships shared between the members of Big Daddy’s family, that of his son Brick(Robert Mills) and his wife Maggie(Mara Fraccaro) in particular.
The London Community Players production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is staged on a beautiful, if traditional, set, designed by Rob Cousins and Rick Sturgeons. The bed, the centrepiece of the set, features a stunning foot board composed of a beautiful large slab of hardwood encased in a wonderful twisting metalwork design that seems to call to mind a tree—a family tree—with twisting branches and deep plunging roots.
Beautiful deep blue and purple lighting washed over the back wall of the set, helping to create a sense of the night sky over the vast twenty-eight thousand acre plantation which lay beyond it.
This is what you see when you walk into the theatre. These beautiful visual elements help frame and uplift the action of the play, action which at times is in some need of support. A play in three-acts, this production takes time to get going. The first act mainly features Brick and Maggie and, due in part to Mills’ southern accent—which falls just short of being believable—and in part to Fraccaro’s at first shallow performance, didn’t really succeed at drawing me into the world of the play. And, following this somewhat frustrating act was a full twenty minute intermission. I honestly cannot understand the reason behind such a drawn out break between acts when there are no major set or costume changes to be made. Given that there was a second intermission between the second and third acts, I truly believe that a fifteen minute intermission would have been more than sufficient and kept from further drawing the audience out of the world of the play.
That said, the second and third acts are where this production shines. John Garlicki’s performance as Big Daddy was simply outstanding. Whenever he was on-stage he completely commanded the scene—as is appropriate given Big Daddy’s standing. Garlicki’s performance completely rectified the problems of the first act, and captivated me completely. In conversation with Garlicki, Mills’ performance also began to warm up and he really gave a feel for the relationship that Brick and Big Daddy share.
The host of secondary characters (Gooper aka “Brother Man” played by James Roberts, Dr. Baugh played by Lance Mercer, and Rev. Tooker played by Rev. Matt Martin, among others) which appear in the latter two acts of the play all provided strong, steady performances which helped give depth and provide support to the action. Kelsea Meredith’s performance as Mae aka “Sister Woman” was delightfully catty, and her pride in her flock of “no-neck monsters” provided the perfect image of a modern Stepford wife. Catharine Sullivan’s performance of Big Mama was equally engaging. Sullivan manages to masterfully capture a woman pushed to her edge, giving us by far the most truthful and touching depiction of grief in the production.
There is an element of risk that comes along with working with such a well-known and celebrated play: your audience will overwhelmingly be familiar with the story already, and will have likely already seen a production or adaptation of it in the past. The London Community Players, however, have not let this stop them from presenting a beautiful, captivating, and worthwhile production of this modern classic.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof continues its run at the Palace Theatre with four shows from February 25th–28th. Curtain is at 8PM. Tickets are $24 General, $21 Students and Seniors, $13 for Youth, and are available at the Palace Theatre box office, or online at http://www.palacetheatre.ca/