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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

Skipper is dead! I'm live! Maggie the Cat is alive!— Maggie's desperate entreaty to lure Brick back to their marital bed
Michael Raymond-James and Rebecca Brooksher in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. (Photo by Emma Rothernberg-Ware)
You'd be hard pressed to name a Tennessee Williams play where desperate emotional and sexual yearnings are not the undercurrents of the drama. This is abundantly true in his 1955 award-winning Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

The Berkshire Theatre Group is currently staging an impressive production of this popular, but perhaps too often done, play. The director is David Auburn who knows a little something about drama. He won his own Pulitzer and Tony Award for Proof.

Set in the main house on the Politt plantation situated on "28,000 acres of the finest land west of the Nile delta," the time is one of both celebration and family skullduggery. Big Daddy (Jim Beaver), the near tyrannical ruler of the Politt land (and clan), is celebrating his 65 birthday under the cloud of terminal cancer.

On hand for the party and an opportunity to try to influence the patriarch to leave his estate to them are his two sons: Brick (Michael Raymond-James), Gooper (Timothy Gulan) and their wives. Gooper's wife, Mae (Jenn Harris) has already proved to be fruitful with five kids and another on the way. Big Daddy is very big on enlarging the family, and with each pregnancy, Mae and Gooper come closer to the inheritance.

Brick's wife, Maggie (Rebecca Brooksher) is childless and currently ignored by her husband in all matters conjugal. Brick's leg is in a cast because of a late night accident on a local playing field and he is both sullen, mired in self pity and hitting the bottle pretty hard. His best friend Skipper, with whom it is hinted he might have had a closeted homosexual relationship, has recently killed himself and the blame for his death lies somewhere between Brick and Maggie.

The first act, a near monologue by Maggie sets out the premise and the problem. She has to get Brick in bed and herself with child. Brooksher, besides being lovely to look at, delivers this emotional tirade with modulating moments of passion, fury and need. Raymond-James plays Brick pretty close to the chest adopting an attitude not unlike some method actors. He warms up brilliantly in the succeeding acts when he is forced into a truthful challenge by Big Daddy.

Williams has always had a knack for writing colorful secondary characters, and the commanding and sturdy work of Beaver is exemplary, as is that of Linda Gehringer as the much put upon Big Mama. Gulan is almost likeable as Gooper, but Harris' Mae is as unappealing as her brood of "no-neck monsters.'

Jason Sherwood has designed a handsome bedroom that morphs into other locations and Hunter Kaczorowski's costumes — especially some brilliantly colored one for the ladies –are quite striking and apt —- for a wealthy delta family.

Williams' poetry is intact as well as his wonderfully crafted dialogue, but it's not easy to ignore thinking that Brick and Skipper's relationship would hardly have caused such a tragedy today. They'd call it a bromance, see each other on occasion (Brokeback Mountain style) and stick with the missus and the money.

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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams
Directed by David Auburn
Cast: Rebecca Brooksher (Margaret), Jim Beaver (Big Daddy), Michel Raymond-James (Brick), Timothy Gulan (Gooper), Linda Gehringer (Big Mama), Jenn Harris (Mae), David Adkins (Reverent Tooker), Brian Russell (Doctor Baugh) and Julianna Salinovici (Dixie).
Scenic design: Jason Sherwood
Costumes: Hunter Kaczorowski
Lighting design: Ann G. Wrightson
Resident Sound Composer/Designer: Scott Killian Wigs: J. Jared Janas
Fight Choreographer: Michael Callahan
Dialect coach: David Alan Stern
Stage Manger: Jason Weixelman
Running time: 2 hours, 50 minutes with two 10-minute intermissions
Through July 16th.
Berkshire Theatre Group; The Fitzgerald Main Stage, 83 East Main Street Stockbridge, Mass.
intermissions.(413) 997-4444, or www.
Through 7/16/16
Reviewed by Chesley Plemmons July 2nd.

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