Review: ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ at Reston Community Players

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Reston Community Players present Tennessee Williams’ classic, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Sharon Veselic directs a talented cast for this insightful production. While a lot has changed in the nearly 65 years since its debut, some themes– like dysfunctional family dynamics– remain stubbornly timeless.

The cast of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, now playing at Reston Community Players. Photo by Jennifer Heffner Photography.
The cast of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, now playing at Reston Community Players. Photo by Jennifer Heffner Photography.

Since all of the action unfolds in one setting, Set Designer/Decorator Matt Liptak and Master Carpenter Tom Geuting make it an impressive one. An ivy-covered trellis and other greenery frame an elevated platform, on which sits a lavishly decorated bedroom that overlooks a gallery. This open layout reveals the grounds and estate of a stately plantation home in the Mississippi Delta. Lighting Designers Ken and Patti Crowley and Sound Designer Jon Roberts work together to enhance the tone of a passing evening– the chirping of birds transitions to those of crickets as the setting sun glows deeper. Co-Costume Designers Charlotte Marson and Mary Rankin capture the 1950s Southern elite with their sleek, stylish dresses; they make sure Maggie’s style is as chic as her personality, even if her dresses do spend most of the time on the floor!

Maggie, played by Susan Smythe Robertson, is a difficult woman to like– and she knows it. She and her injured husband, Brick, are getting ready for Brick’s father, Big Daddy’s birthday party, and she spews venom the whole time. Stuck in an unhappy marriage (“We aren’t living together, we’re stuck in the same cage”), she has grown cold and irritable, and compares her life to that of a “cat on a hot tin roof.” She laments about their childless union while seething with jealousy and downright dislike for her sister-in-law Mae, who is pregnant with her sixth child. Maggie worries Big Daddy will leave the entire estate to Mae and her husband Gooper (Andy Gable) and their many children, whom Maggie not-at-all-lovingly refers to as “no-neck monsters.” This has become a time-sensitive topic, as Big Daddy has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the whole family knows about it except Big Daddy himself and his wife, Big Mama.

What follows is a ticking time bomb of an evening, filled with tension and strife. Tempers flare and relationships are tested as long-dormant issues are finally confronted. Susan Smythe Robertson and Cara Giambrone do a great job with Maggie and Mae’s catty, competitive relationship, and Jonathan Blansfield delivers a poignant performance as Brick, Maggie’s taciturn husband who harbors a few secrets of his own. However, my favorite performances of the evening were those of Gayle Nichols-Grimes and Al Fetske. Nichols-Grimes gives some much-needed comedic relief as the loud, bawdy Big Mama, and Fetske’s Big Daddy simmers with the slow burn of a tired man who has run out of patience. The acting is solid, and the ensemble shows a lot of talent. However, this is a dialogue-driven play, and I would have liked if the actors had projected their voices a bit more.

Reston Community Players’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a literature lover’s dream. Full of emotion, heady themes, and symbolism, those who enjoy critical discussion will have a to talk about after this play. It’s a classic for a reason.

Running Time: Approximately two and a half hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof plays through March 24, 2018, at Reston Community Center’s CenterStage: Hunters Woods Village Center, 2310 Colts Neck Road, in Reston, VA. To purchase tickets, call the box office at (703) 476-4500, or go online.