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Unplugged: ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ a powerful vehicle for Collective Face ensemble

  • Maggie Lee Hart as Maggie the Cat in Collective Face Theatre Ensemble’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” (Photo by MercedeB Photography)
 

Unplugged: ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ a powerful vehicle for Collective Face ensemble

17 May 2017

The Collective Face Theatre Ensemble has never shied away from ambitious productions. The company is wrapping up its current season with Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1955.

The play seems an especially good vehicle for three Collective Face ensemble members. Maggie Lee Hart’s Maggie is by turns frantic, seductive, even sinister as she desperately tries to hang on to her husband Brick, her standing in the possibly crumbling family empire and her own sense of self.

As Brick, Zachary Burke projects just the right amount of disdain, diffidence, fear and brooding resentment as Maggie and Big Daddy repeatedly insinuate that he had a sexual relationship with his best friend Skipper, who drank himself to death.

Michael Moynihan’s Big Daddy shifts seamlessly from jovial vulgarity to explosive anger.

Williams’ generally unlikable characters and the play’s structure present challenges to directors, actors and audience members. The lengthy first act is dominated by Maggie, while the second act is dominated by Big Daddy. Both characters struggle to express their almost inexplicable love for Brick, who is trying to erase his problems with booze.

As he does time and again, director David I.L. Poole negotiates the inherent difficulties of an emotionally complex text, although I felt that the ensemble performances and technical choices occasionally needed more restraint.

This is the second time since the closure of Muse Arts Warehouse that the Collective Face has used the theater in the Kennedy Fine Arts Building at Savannah State University. The scale and specifications of the space seem just about perfect for the company’s needs.

As usual, Poole’s set design is worth appreciation. “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” utilizes slightly transparent material for walls, which allows the audience to see the action on the veranda. The stage is also angled slightly, so that the action upstage around the literal and symbolic bed isn’t obscured by downstage elements.

“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” is a fairly long play that demands some patience. This production is relatively fast-paced but is still nearly three hours, including two intermissions.

Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at Savannah Unplugged (www.billdawers.com) and hissing lawns (www.hissinglawns.com). Email billdawers@comcast.net.

IF YOU GO

What: Collective Face Theatre Ensemble presents “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”

When: 8 p.m. May 19, 20, 26, 27; 3 p.m. May 21, 28

Where: Kennedy Theatre, Savannah State University, 3219 College St.

Cost: $25; $20 seniors, students, active military

Info: 912-232-0018, collectiveface.org

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