“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at ACT

Since its debut in 1955, “Cat…” has been thrilling, troubling, and intellectually stimulating audiences worldwide. And, if you adore fine acting, you don’t want to miss this production of one of the greatest of Tennessee Williams’ plays. Williams never backs off deep emotion, never soft pedals intra-family jealousies, is unafraid of foul language. When astute directors work with superb actors on his incendiary scripts . . . well magic happens on stage. We have magic here.

The production runs three hours. I hesitate to admit my own limitations, but too often I find myself at two and a half hours looking at my watch and impatiently waiting for whatever is on the stage to be over. I could have watched this production for another hour. Williams’ words and plot brought to life by consummate actors is a gift. It epitomizes the best in theatre.

ACT - CAT - Brandon ONeill and Laura Griffith on bed (c) Chris Bennion

Brandon ONeill and Laura Griffith on bed Photo: Chris Bennion

Here, under the direction of Kurt Beattie, the staging works, as do all the other element of the production—lighting, costumes, sound, and set. They provide a fine background for the  actors.

Laura Griffith is exquisite as Maggie the Cat. She epitomizes repressed sexuality. She slithers around the stage like the serpent in Eden, enticing her wounded husband Brick (Brandon O’Neill) to partake of her fruit. Yet in the flash of an eye she becomes a harridan. She rails at him, attacks him, picks away at his sore spots, and all the while her longing, her neediness sweep the stage, the stage that she completely owns throughout the first act.

ACT - CAT - John Aylward intimidates (c) Chris Bennion

John Aylward as Big Daddy. Photo: Chris Bennion

Then there’s John Aylward as Big Daddy, scared of the future, demanding to be in control of the present. Oh he’s a powerful force! What he’s gained in wealth and land, he’s lost in human kindness. He rules his kingdom and its indentured family members with snarls, insults, and hurtful words. Aylward manages to make him both monster and pitiable creature.

These two, supported by the fine cast make this one of Seattle’s top productions this year.

Through May 17 at ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle, (206 292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org).

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