Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 30, 2016

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Berkshire Theatre Group, Stockbridge, MA
through July 16, 2016
by Jarice Hanson

One of the challenges of mounting a Tennessee Williams play is that the audience often comes to the production with a number of preconceived ideas about the characters and an expectation of the type of southern claustrophobia so integral to creating tension among characters.  In Berkshire Theatre Group’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” some of those expectations are realized, while others are not.

The cast is comprised of talented actors all of whom have some fine moments on stage, though Big Daddy and Big Momma are physically not as imposing as the script suggests. Still, each of the actors has gravitas and go beyond stereotypical portrayals to find moments of connection with the audience.

Photo by Emma Rothenberg-Ware
Director David Auburn sets the action in Brick and Maggie’s bedroom, which suggests a level of intimacy, even when all of the characters celebrate Big Daddy’s birthday in the room to accommodate Brick’s injured leg. Furniture is shifted between acts one and two, and two and three, with no real reason other than to perhaps, suggest an introduction of a different point of view. The claustrophobic tension between and among characters conflicts with a backdrop that suggests the wide open plantation that extends beyond the confines of the bedroom where the action takes place.

Though the play is long (after all, it is a Tennessee Williams script), the pace is steady. The strong southern accents become a problem—perhaps because of the acoustics, or possibly, as the actors attempt to deal with internal angst their verbal articulation suffers. As a result, some of Williams’ best lines are lost and the biting truth of the anger and lies that both hold this family together and drives the wedge between them loses tension and the seething power that is often at the heart of a Tennessee Williams script.

For someone who wants an introduction to Tennessee Williams this production might entertain, but for those who revel in his language and interpersonal conflicts, the production may disappoint.