“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” Shows Sharp Claws and Onstage Heat

Tennessee Williams, the award-winning playwright of “The Glass Menagerie” and “A Streetcar Named Desire” skillfully blended passion, power, and greedy family dynamics when he premiered “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in 1955.  The plot is familiar even today…a wealthy elder patriarch in the Deep South must make decisions about inheritance.  “Big Daddy” disgustedly finds his two sons and their spouses pandering and pushing their way into his good graces when they sense his end is near. 

The acerbic dialog is superbly brought to life by a well-cast ensemble of actors and directed with heat and energy by Michael Fontaine.  It’s a classic where the script in lesser hands could overwhelm the acting, but this director knows how to deliver the emotion and sizzle to the audience.  Of nostalgic note is that the role of Big Daddy is played by Charles Siebert, an Equity actor who had played the older son in the original Broadway production many decades ago.  Siebert, now a Santa Rosa resident, commands this role with brusque control, befitting a plantation owner.

Big Daddy’s younger and favored son, played by Clint Campbell, is indolent, alcoholic, and looks great in a towel.  “The towel has velcro, so there won’t be any slips” smiles Campbell with a wry grin.  His character is manipulated by his sultry yet scheming wife, Maggie, played to Southern Belle perfection in a white slip by Jenifer Cote.  

Big Daddy’s jealous older son is an avaricious attorney, a rather dull character handsomely crafted by Tice Allison.  Beth Deitchman plays his wife, a pregnant “breeder” with five children who plays up her fertility against Maggie’s barrenness.  Deitchman is a standout in her role, cajoling her children into pseudo-charming displays of affection for Big Daddy, and shielding her razor-sharp barbs for Maggie with sugar coated aggression.

Big Mama, the patient and long-suffering matriarch played by Kate Brickley, can’t do much with her children or her husband.  Although completely dissed by Big Daddy, she maintains her character’s anchor quality that secures many turbulent families.

The talented children who not only act but sing (and scream) on cue include petite stage veteran Alyssa Jirrels, Christopher Calloway, Cabrilla Wiecek, Fiona Sarter, and 6-year-old Gavin Kirn.  They are terrific.  Supporting adult roles include Samson Hood, Joe Winkler, and Sophia Rubin-Davis.  A special shout out to the fantastic set design, thanks to Peter Crompton, with subtle lighting by April George.  The wafting gauze curtains, wide balcony, and brass bed create a sultry and unsettling mood for this production.

Playing now through March 25th at the G. K Hardt Theater at 6th Street Playhouse, 52 West 6th Street, santa Rosa.  Tickets $15 to $32 at www.6thstreetplayhouse.com or (707) 523-4185.