Friday, April 9, 2010

"Cat" sizzles at OSF

Stephanie Beatriz as Maggie on
the OSF poster for
Cat on a Hot
Tin Roof.
Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof has to rank among the greatest plays in the English language, and the current production at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, directed by Christopher Liam Moore, is absolutely dazzling.

The show features a Seattle favorite, Michael Winters, who was nominated for a best-actor Wisey last year for his portrayal of Prospero in The Tempest at Seattle Shakespeare Company. We were thrilled to learn Winters would play Big Daddy, then disappointed to hear that Cat was only running through July 4, and we typically visit Ashland in September. But, my Sweetie, the official scorer, has a business trip to San Francisco, Ashland is conveniently located about halfway there, and so a side trip was in order.

Winters and Big Daddy don't even appear until the second act, but the wait is worth it. He's incredible in a kick-ass role. Williams wrote him bigger than life, master of "28 thousand acres of the richest land this side of the valley Nile," and Winters is up to the task. A virtuoso performance by a great talent.

Stephanie Beatriz was hot and in charge as Maggie the Cat. We gave Beatriz a shout-out for her performance as Catherine in A View from the Bridge at OSF in 2008. She was really superb and more than a match for Sister Woman Mae (Kate Mulligan), Big Mama (Catherine E. Coulson), and Gooper (Rex Young), all of whom were marvelous.

Big Daddy (Michael Winters)
insists that Brick (Danforth
Comins) tell him why he
drinks. OSF photo by
Jenny Graham.
Perhaps the best acting was done by Danforth Comins as Brick, who had to look bored and disinterested for about 45 minutes in the first act while smokin' hot Maggie pranced around the stage in the wispiest of slips, setting the stage for the fun to come. Man! Liz who? My Sweetie had some quibbles with Maggie's hair. Frankly, I didn't notice!

A great deal of credit goes to director Moore and scenic designer Christopher Acebo for a fabulous set. It was simple: the bed, a nightstand, and Brick's liquor cabinet. There were no walls, just some wispy curtains in a circle around the stage, emphasizing the challenging lack of privacy in Brick and Maggie's world. In scene two they flipped around the furniture so that the set was a mirror image of what it was in scene one. Lots of reflection in that second scene. In the third scene, the bed was moved to a more prominent position, and that's where the play ends. Moore also used a 1974 version of the script, to which Williams added some more zesty language and more details about Brick's relationship with Skipper.

What a marvelous show in all regards. Get thee to Ashland and see it if you can.

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