Letters to Holly

Friday, January 26

Day Twenty-Nine: Brush-Up

We're just running lines tonight, sitting around the green room table. Ten of us, sans kids, simply saying lines with little acting. We're itching to make a short night of it. And we do. Starting a little after 7, we finish around 8:30. That includes stops. Big Daddy discovers he must walk around to deliver his lines. Mae has some trouble. The reverend reads his lines before delivering them, and the doctor again gets lost in his Act III dialogue. Big Mama has some small stumbles, but she rights herself. Me? Shit, I can rattle off my lines monotone in under five minutes. Remember the fast talker in the '80s Fed Ex commercials? It sounds like that. The brush-up reminds us just how much Maggie carries Act I, and she rightfully puts her head down to rest as we move to Act II.

We talk a bit about who's coming to see the show. Big Daddy says a friend's children were turned away by an overzealous box-office volunteer. The stage manager assures him that won't happen again. Mae says her in-laws are arriving this weekend to watch, but they're practically deaf. Daddy also recollects that when he did this play in the midwest over the past 30 years, some of the cast didn't know what "poontang" (which Big Daddy yells in Act II) was. Did they cast a whole ensemble of Radar O'Reillys?

We find out the reviewer for the Asheville daily saw the show on Sunday, not Thursday, after all. And we're told the review will run Friday morning.

And here it is:

Asheville Community Theatre plumbs the depths of family conflict and hypocrisy with Tennessee Williams’ intense drama “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

Charles H. Bell III is unforgettable as “Big Daddy” Pollitt, a Mississippi Delta tycoon whose family gathers to celebrate his 65th birthday and release from the hospital. Beneath all the birthday hoopla they have a serious purpose, to tell Big Daddy and his wife Big Mama (Cary Nichols) that he is dying of cancer.

And family members are already scrambling to get control of Big Daddy’s fortune and his sprawling 28,000-acre plantation.

Oldest son Gooper (Gregory Dickens), an attorney, proclaims that he should head the family empire rather than his brother Brick (Dan Clancy), a former star athlete who now drowns his sorrows in alcohol.

Gooper’s scheming wife Mae (Lysa Kennedy) trots out their five children in a transparent attempt to win Big Daddy’s approval, while constantly pointing out that Brick and his wife remain childless.

Melissa Menard gives a mesmerizing performance as Brick’s sexy wife, Maggie, who writhes like “a cat on a hot tin roof” as she tries to break through Brick’s alcoholic haze of disgust and hate.

Nothing is as it seems. The fog of lies and deceit, or “mendacity” as Brick calls it, hangs heavy over this Mississippi mansion.

Director Leslie Muchmore and a talented cast manage to wrest the full impact of Tennessee Williams’ powerful story. Even if you saw the movie or other productions, this is a show worth catching.

OK, so this is technically a summary with a few subjective opinions. But that's what dailies do. It's possible 3/4 of this was written before he saw the play. I also think Big Mama was short-changed. Her reactions alone make Big Daddy's bluster less outrageously funny and more harsh and cruel. She does that with sharp delivery, and she deserves some laurels.

Previous entries:
Day One: Reading It Through
Day Two: Act Two
Day Three: Reading Act Two
Day Four: Talking It Through
Day Five: Blocking Act Two
Day Six: Act Two Redux
Day Seven: Reading Act Three
Day Eight: The Da Gooper Code
Day Nine: The Laying On of Hands
Day Ten: Pictures and Pages
Day Eleven: Onstage
Day Twelve: Memory
Day Thirteen: The Quickie
Day Fourteen: The Lines
Day Fifteen: Act III Anxiety
Day Sixteen: Let's Just Get It Right
Day Seventeen: Molding the Gooper
Day Eighteen: Goopercalypse
Day Nineteen: There Is Not A Doctor In The House
Day Twenty: Back to Words
Day Twenty-One: Getting Technical
Day Twenty-Two: We're Ready When You Are
Day Twenty-Three: Socks
Day Twenty-Four: Our First Audience
Day Twenty-Five: Calamity
Day Twenty-Six: Opening Night
Day Twenty-Seven: Second Night
Day Twenty-Eight: The Show You Saw

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