Student director handles mature themes in H-B Woodlawn’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” with aplomb


Pictured: Kyra Klontz and Ned Sieverts (Grace Cannon)
March 13, 2013

All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

Madelyn Paquette, a student at McLean High School , reviews “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” performed by H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

What breaks the soul of a man? Is it the twisting of love into bitterness? The inevitability of mortality and death? The inescapable guilt of the past? Or perhaps it is simply the perverse mendacity that gradually seeps into every facet of his life, each day perverting purity into disgust. H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program explored these exquisite agonies of humanity in its impassioned production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tennessee Williams. It was adapted into a classic 1958 film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. The events of the play center on a birthday celebration for the wealthy owner of a Southern estate in the 1950s, Big Daddy Pollitt. However, the family is teeming with dark secrets; from alcoholism to sexual frustration to terminal illness to shadows of the past that refuse to die.

H-B Woodlawn’s production was directed with maturity and skill by Grace Cannon. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof features highly adult themes that most high school students have not personally experienced; it is a credit to Cannon’s direction that her actors handled the heavy drama of the play with uncommon poise and believability. She not only expertly crafted power dynamics through sophisticated use of levels onstage, but also shaped the technical elements of the production into a stylistically cohesive whole.

Kyra Klontz imbued the iconic role of Maggie "the Cat" with the perfect balance of élan and desperation. Not only was her mastery of her text impressive in terms of its sheer volume, but Klontz displayed remarkable emotional range, befitting her role as a woman frantically clinging to a broken marriage. Her interactions with her husband Brick, played by Ned Sieverts, contained moments of genuine truth, particularly in the show’s opening scene, where the contrast between his icy detachment and her wild devotion was utterly exposed. Sieverts’ portrayal of Brick’s internal struggle was particularly strong in his subtle character moments, adding a level of complexity and depth to this profoundly imperfect man.

The supporting cast provided the production with another dimension of feeling and intensity which heightened the drama depicted in Williams’ script. Sam Lammie was an utterly dominating presence as the family patriarch, Big Daddy. Lammie’s performance was tinged with aged toughness, and he never hesitated to seize the power in a scene through his imposing physicality and commanding vocal delivery. Caroline Petro was another standout, adding a few much-appreciated moments of levity as Maggie’s scheming sister-in-law Mae.

The show’s technical aspects created an appropriate background for the fervent passions of the actors, establishing a realistic environment for these characters to inhabit. The set crew created a bedroom for Maggie and Brick that felt remarkably livable and well put-together. Attention to detail was impressive across nearly all elements of tech, from the costume crew’s inclusion of wedding rings to the masterful execution of the hair team’s designs, including Maggie’s perfectly coiffed curls and Brick’s damp-from-the-shower look.

In the end, it isn’t the lies that the world tells that break us; it is the lies that we tell to ourselves. H-B Woodlawn unveiled this devastating truth in its piercing production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

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