- Washington D.C. Critic
Winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama once is an outstanding achievement for anyone but it wasn’t enough for Playwright Tennessee Williams. After winning for A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948 he continued to produce ground-breaking, successful work. In 1955 he won again for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which is often debated as his best work. The Castaways Repertory Theatre tried their hand at the classic play and did remarkably well, giving the audience a beautiful set, great acting and purposeful directing. This show follows a dramatic evening for a family in the Mississippi Delta, we see the family question one another’s lives, honesty, intentions and lifestyles as new and old events surface. The show begins with the troubled couple of Brick (Played by Matt Scarborough) and his wife Maggie played by (Deidre McCollum), as they discuss their own lives as well as their families. Most of the conversation focuses around Big Daddy (Jay Tilley) and what his illness will do to the family. Big Daddy, naturally, has a Big Momma (Catherine Lyon) who believes she runs the family contrary to what Big Daddy believes. Brick’s brother Gooper (Peter Ponzini) and his wife Mae (Becky Farris) also vital roles as they have their own ideas about the direction of the family. This combination of characters leads to laughter, heartbreak and everything in between.
Matt Scarborough made a fantastic Brick, giving us long periods of subtlety and indifference that led to explosive moments of emotions. Brick must also spend the whole show in a leg cast while using a crutch and Scarborough seemed very natural with that physicality throughout the show, never being to “over the top”. Deidre McCollum also gave a wonderful performance as Maggie, showing the largest range of emotions throughout the show. She was always in the moment, as if these lines were being said for the first time. She gave us equal amounts of sincerity, light-heartedness, and desire when the character called for it. Jay Tilly stood out the most in the particular production, playing the most complex character. Big Daddy is an iconic role for a reason, it’s hard to play. This role needs to be equal parts boisterous and aggressive, making the audience like him one moment and dislike him the next. Jay Tilly did that and more, he provided wonderful energy at low times in the script, keeping the audience engaged and invested. Becky Farris, Peter Ponzini, and Catherine Lyon all gave commendable performances as well. The highest praise I feel a cast can get is the word “Believable” and this cast was exactly that. No one stuck out as an actor playing a character; I just saw the characters themselves.
It’s no secret that Tennessee Williams is slightly outdated and can at times drag but the direction of this show kept the actors constantly involved and moving, which made it much more lively for the audience. This production was directed by Erin DeCaprio with assistance from Stella Sklar. Just when you thought the energy/script was lagging there would be something to revive it, whether it was Brick constantly getting a drink or having housekeepers come in and out, there was always something happening. Costumes were also very well done in this production, seeming to be very authentic. Granted, I’m not an expert in 1950’s Mississippi attire but nothing seemed out of place, it all felt natural. Kudos to Valeria Pareja for that. The set was very efficient, especially for the small space. It really set up the fact that this family had money and had no shame spending it.
This show is up in Woodbridge, Va. for two more weekends. I recommend it to anyone who is a Williams fan, Theatre fan or anyone who wants to broaden their horizons. Take a look at what Theatre was before Hamilton or Almost Maine. Shows like this are important and I only hope more Theaters will focus on presenting culture like this on stage, not just guaranteed money makers. More information about this show and The Castaways Repertory Theatre can be found here: http://www.castawaystheatre.org/. Tickets can also be found on Goldstar for a limited time!