WILKES-BARRE — As they mingled in the lobby during intermission, theater-goers Nancy Olson, of Kingston, and Joann Wynn, of Ashley, marveled at what they’d just seen and heard during the first act of Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
“She’s tremendous,” Olson said, referring to Angel Berlane Mulcahy’s performance as Maggie in the Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre production, which continues through March 5.
“It’s amazing how someone can memorize all those lines,” Wynn said.
Playwright Williams gave character Maggie a great deal of dramatic lines, as well as insight into her troubled relationship with her husband, Brick, played by Dave Giordano.
“Living with someone you love can be lonely,” Maggie tells him.
But then, maybe she doesn’t actually “live with” him. As she puts it, “We occupy the same space.”
Though she sometimes feels discouraged — Maggie has thought about going to the kitchen for “the longest, sharpest knife,” with which to commit suicide — she is determined to revitalize their marriage.
“My hat is still in the ring,” she says.
Of course, Maggie’s not the only character with memorable lines. After Brick, who is suffering from a broken ankle, angrily chases her around the bedroom with his crutch and subsequently falls, one of the couple’s five impish nieces and nephews comes in and asks Uncle Brick what he’s doing on the floor.
“I tried to kill your Aunt Maggie,” he says.
Maybe that’s one of the few true statements in a play about characters who lie to each other a great deal — about little things such as who bought a birthday present, and larger issues, such as who is terminally ill and who’s secretly attracted to whom.
Following the Feb. 19 performance, Tennessee Williams scholar Annette Saddik, who is a professor of English and theatre at the City University of New York, led a talkback with the audience and the cast.
She said Williams had reworked the script several times, at one point to please Broadway director Elia Kazan, and that several versions exist. “This one seems to be the 1973/74 version,” she said.
The play takes place in Mississippi, where Williams lived in his youth, and the title reflects a remark his father once made to his mother, about her making him “as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof.”
Saddik praised the cast for their performance, giving special kudos to Eric Lutz, as Brick’s brother, Gooper, for the way he portrayed the quiet exasperation of a sibling whose parents consider him a second-rate son, even though — unlike Brick — he’s not an alcoholic and has provided them with several grandchildren.
“He did everything right,” Saddik said, expressing sympathy for the character.
Production coordinator David Parmelee added praise for Giordano who, as he portrayed a constantly drinking Brick, had to act progressively drunk over a span of three hours.
If you attend the show, you’ll see plenty of fascinating moments — among them Big Mama’s odd attack on the visiting preacher man, Big Daddy’s vivid description of elephants at a zoo and, not to be forgotten, five youngsters running around with sparklers and kazoos.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT