Talk about going out on a high note.

The Collective Face Theatre Ensemble will close its fifth anniversary season with Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Don't bring the kids - this production is rated R for adult language and content.

The play will open May 12 at Kennedy Fine Arts Auditorium on the Savannah State University campus.

"On opening night, we will have a reception and will announce the upcoming season," says David I.L. Poole, artistic director for the ensemble. "I think this play will surprise people."

Poole is the director and designer of this production.

"We're delving back into Tennessee Williams," he says. "The last one we did was 'Suddenly Last Summer.' This is a phenomenal play."

Williams won the 1955 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."

"This play is 62 years old," Poole says. "With Pulitzer Prize-winning plays, we remember them.

"It was made into an iconic movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Burl Ives. Our performers are top of the line.

"It's family drama, edgy, with sexuality," Poole says. "It's a world of hot heat."

Set in 1955 in Glorious Hill, a fictitious town in the Mississippi Delta, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" takes place on Big Daddy's 28,000-acre cotton plantation.

This is a Southern family in crisis, especially Big Daddy's son, Brick, and his wife Margaret, or "Maggie the Cat." The family has gathered to celebrate Big Daddy's birthday and his return from a clinic with what he has been told is a clean bill of health, though he actually is dying of cancer.

The family has lied to Big Daddy and Big Mama to spare them the pain. It soon becomes obvious that this family has long been in denial, which is revealed during a long, booze-filled night.

While Maggie the Cat still desires her husband, Brick, an ex-football star, he has become an alcoholic, only wanting his next bottle of whiskey. Because Big Daddy is dying, the family is swarming to get part of the inheritance he will leave behind.

Nothing is being toned down in this production.

"We're not shying away," Poole says. "I can't say how much more I love the play and its dynamics and its comparison to 'King Lear.'

"It's a play with the idea of an inside and outside world," he says. "It asks, 'Is there privacy anywhere?'"

The cast includes Maggie Lee Hart as Maggie the Cat and Zachary Burke as Brick. Michael Moynihan plays Big Daddy and Mickey Dodge is Big Mama.

The cast also includes Christopher Blair as Gooper (Brother Man), Casey Bessette as Mae (Sister Woman), Gary Shelby as Rev. Tooker and Eric Salles as Dr. Baugh. Others in the cast are Maya Caldwell, Andre Wortham, Isabel Lilja-Vazquez, Cameron L. Ambler and Callen J. Louis.

The casting of Hart as Maggie the Cat is perfect, Poole says.

"It's time for her to play Maggie," he says. "She's going to be fantastic at it. Our Brick is wonderful, too. They're a phenomenal cast.

"Each one is so good for their roles and they're doing a bang-up job," Poole says. "We're doing the 1970s version of it, the more edgy version."

The play is being presented in cooperation with Savannah State University's Players by the Sea. It is Williams' best-known work and reportedly his favorite play.

Lighting design is by Michaela Baird. The set, designed by Poole, helps set the tone of the play.

"Tennessee Williams takes his time to write about what he expects from the designers," Poole says. "I had visited plantation homes in Louisiana in preparation for this.

"This play takes place in the Mississippi Delta. Unfortunately, most of their plantations are no longer in existence.

"In this general area of plantations in Louisiana, there are like seven of them," he says. "They've been used in films. I really took that into consideration when I designed the set."

In his notes, Williams mentioned the house had influences from the Far East.

"When I decided to do the set, I looked at what he meant by Far East," Poole says. "I decided to include a lot of Chinese influence.

"Big Daddy and Big Mama have been around the world and would have brought things back. Our set has sort of a Chinese theme to it.

"Being of partial Asian descent myself, it sort of has that love," Poole says. "It makes the space claustrophobic but grand, but it still has a bleed-through wall effect which allows things to happen in the outside world."

The audience gets to see both what's going on outside the house and inside.

"They get to see the gossip and what's happening on the other side of the wall," Poole says. "These walls are paper-thin.

"The walls are made out of gossamer, which acts like scrim. If you shine a light in front of it, it becomes solid. If you shine in back of the walls, they become transparent.

"It kind of looks like rice paper, so there are gilded rice-paper walls and red carpeting," he says. "It's beautiful. The play is beautiful, but really edgy, too."

The production is coming along splendidly, Pool says.

"I couldn't have asked for more," he says. "Our spin is this idea of intimacy, transparency, indoors, outdoors, private space.

"What does that mean? There are always people spying.

"It does have partial nudity in it, and is rated R for the content of the play," Poole says. It's a long play, but doesn't feel long. The performances are so good."

This play is a theatergoer's must-see.

"If you like steamy drama and family dynamics and things you can relate to, this is the play for you," Poole says. "There are two or three characters where you go, 'I know exactly what that's like.' What a perfect way to end the season and come into a hot, steamy summer."


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

When: 8 p.m. May 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27; 3 p.m. May 14, 21, 28

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

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

Info: 912-232-0018,