Friday, November 6, 2009
Legendary 1955 play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, starting November 6 at 51 Walden Street, Concord.
Carlisle residents play an integral role in the success of the production. Marilyn Cugini is hard at work on marketing and publicity for the show, Allen Bantly is the set builder and Rik Pierce, the Concord Players’ webmaster, is the production photographer. The cast also includes Carlisleans Liam McNeill as Brick, Tom Veirs as Dr. Baugh and Alden and Reilly Harring as Dixie and Trixie, respectively. Carlisle theatergoers saw Reilly Harring in last year’s SLOC production of Annie Get Your Gun.
In Cat, Reilly and her sister Alden are part of a thundering herd of “no-neck monster” children who provide the play with some of its most amusing and most disturbing moments. Veirs, soon to be the wine manager for Ferns Country Store, plays Dr. Baugh, the physician responsible for the cancer-stricken and cantankerous patriarch of the family, Big Daddy. McNeill tackles an exceptionally challenging role in Brick, Big Daddy’s son.
About the play
Cat is a compelling experience in the theater. Its battles for power and human connection are unsurpassed in American dramatic literature and squeeze the juice out of every character in the script. As Brick’s wife Margaret, known as Maggie the Cat, says, “What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof? I wish I knew….Just staying on it, I guess, as long as she can….”
Maggie the Cat, Big Daddy and Big Mama are all outsized characters, full of color and theatrical pyrotechnics. They are complemented by the wheedling Mae and Gooper and their herd of “no-neck monster” children, running amok all over the stage. All these relatives are jostling, competing and fighting for pre-eminence among their Mississippi plantation kin. Maggie, who gives the play its title, is indeed struggling to keep her footing on the “hot tin roof” that is the world of her husband Brick’s family.
The most tragic character in the play is Brick himself, whose broken ankle, alcoholism and personal demons reach far past injury into symbolism and archetype. In the maelstrom of energy created by the other, more flamboyant characters, morose Brick becomes pivotal and ironically, the axis on which all the other lives revolve. The play is as big as life and as personal as every character’s individual path through it. As Williams himself put it in an introduction to the audience, “I want to go on talking to you as freely and intimately about what we live and die for, as if I knew you better than anyone else whom you know.”
Williams takes actors and audience on a roller coaster
Williams gives actors so much fertile material to work with that they can always find new sources with which to create richness in their characters. The result is that their “play” with other actors ratchets to a much more exhilarating level. McNeill, a Carlisle native who makes his stage debut in this production, has had roles in films, including Robert Harris in Honeycomb Heels, Charlie Fox in Speed the Plow, and Tony Wendice in Dial M for Murder. He wrote that when the lines in a script “stick in my mind more easily and flow out of my mouth more naturally, that speaks to a certain congruency that the author has developed between the words and the character. This is the case here with Williams. He has a smooth, flowing way with words that is easy to speak and have a natural fit with, in my case, the character of Brick….Much of the job of acting is done when the quality of the script is so high, as it is here.”
McNeill also asserts that the Concord Players’ production of the play promises a fine theater experience. “The bar has been set high: the number of dedicated people in each aspect of the show, the rich history behind the players, the outstanding facilities,...the strong and organized support network around us.…The talent of the cast in this show makes acting so much easier.…It becomes easy to play off of them naturally, without having to artificially manufacture the feelings that are needed in that scene. And Mario [Salinas, the director] is absolutely stunning in how he is able to orchestrate the show entirely in his head, knowing what he wants and what is needed, yet always actively open to the actors’ impulses and suggestions. It is a true collaboration.”
I always leave a performance of Cat exhausted and at the same time enthralled and inspired by the performances, by the rhythms of the play and by the fragile beauty that Williams always sees in life, rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the emotional conflagration he creates. The Concord Players’ production of this iconic American play will be that kind of entertainment, more like a roller coaster ride than a cerebral evening in the theater. Without a doubt, you’ll leave the theater breathless, with a head full of lasting images and more than a passing acquaintance with a great playwright.
Concord Players tickets and more information www.concordplayers.org.
CCTV Discussion: A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof discussion program was recently recorded at CCTV, featuring director Mario Salinas and cast members Tom Large, Michelle Mount and Liam McNeill. The show has been airing on CCTV, Channel 8 since last week. A one-minute promotional spot done by McNeill will also begin airing this week. The schedule for the Concord Players discussion follows:
Nov. 5 at 8 a.m.; noon; and 11 p.m.
Play run: November 6, 7, 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m.; November 15 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Performances are at 51 Walden Street, Concord.
Tickets: $18/reserved seating. Purchase with credit card on line or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org; by snail mail with a check made out to The Concord Players – Tickets, P.O. Box 22, Concord, MA 01742; at the box office at 51 Walden Street on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; or by calling 1-978-369-2990 for tickets and information. Subscriptions to all three of the Players’ 2009-2010 season productions are also available.
© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito