Saturday, February 16, 2019

San Jose troupe stages brilliant 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof'

Brick (Rob August) tries to ignore his frustrated wife, Maggie (Allison F. Rich).

San Jose Stage Company proves the genius of Tennessee Williams with its brilliant production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

This interplay of family dysfunction shines thanks to the direction of Lee Sankowich and a pitch-perfect cast.

The action takes place in the gallery of a Mississippi Delta plantation home one summer evening in the early 1950s.

As it opens, the title character, Maggie “the cat” (Allison F. Rich), is expressing her frustration with her husband, Brick (Rob August). He drinks too much and no longer sleeps with her.

A former star football player whose career ended several years ago, he injured his ankle while drunkenly jumping hurdles at the high school the night before. Hence he’s using a crutch.

This opening scene belongs to Maggie. Rich is mesmerizing as Maggie primps  before a mirror and complains not only about Brick but also about his five rambunctious nieces and nephews, the “no-neck monsters.”

They’re the children of Brick’s older brother, Gooper (Will Springhorn Jr.), and his pregnant wife, Mae (Tanya Marie).

Big Daddy (Randall King) has a serious talk with his son, Brick.
Just as Maggie owned one scene, Brick’s father, Big Daddy (Randall King), the family patriarch, owns another as he berates Brick for excessive drinking and touches on a sore subject: Brick’s relationship with his late friend, Skipper.

He implies that it was homosexual and OK with him, but Brick vehemently denies any such inference.

In both scenes, Brick’s crutch is taken from him, prompting pleas of “give me my crutch,” just as he sometimes pleads for another drink. Hence the crutch is the symbol of Brick’s leaning on alcohol to escape reality.

Big Daddy and his wife of 40-some years, Big Mama (Judith Miller), are also celebrating the good news that he’s suffering from a spastic colon, not cancer. He feels as if he’s been given a new lease on life and sees no need to write a will just now.

However, the rest of the family knows the truth. Big Daddy has cancer that has spread throughout his body and will soon kill him. Hence Gooper and Mae try to curry his favor and gain control of his considerable estate after his death.

Despite Brick’s many problems, he recognizes one theme in his family: mendacity, the untruthfulness used by everyone for one reason for another.

It’s all quite intense thanks to the quality of Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play and the quality of the acting and direction.

Aiding in the process are the set by Giulio Cesare Perrone, lighting by Michael Johnson, costumes by Ashley Garlick and sound by Steve Schoenbeck.

Running about two and a half hours with one intermission, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” will continue through March 3 at The Stage, 490 S. First St., San Jose.

For tickets and information, call (408) 283-7142 or visit

Photos from San Jose Stage Company