Los Angeles Theater Review: HOT CAT (Theatre of NOTE with Theatre Movement Bazaar)

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by Ella Martin on May 6, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles

A CAT IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a tricky play even before it leaves the page. Nearly sixty years after its first performance, Williams’ brilliant poetic language and the story’s pervasive darkness can easily steer it into the realm of melodrama. “Oft-revived,” it is both commercially and artistically primed for, though not exclusively demanding of, a remix. Hot Cat, Theatre Movement Bazaar’s trim one-hour adaptation of Ella Martin's Stage and Cinema LA review of Theatre of NOTE's HOT CAT.Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, offers a playful take on the American classic. From a fabulous opening dance number to an irreverent husband-and-wife baby-making football sequence, the play gets off to a fantastic start. The majority of Tina Kronis and Richard Alger’s inventive vignettes succeed or are very much on the right track, drawing the audience in and shedding bright, immediate light on the complex relationships of the play. The damning consequences of the objectification of women and men, for instance, is made profoundly clear, as all six of this show’s wounded cats find themselves trapped in some difficult positions (sometimes literally, thanks to Kronis’ deceptively fun and insightful choreography) by the gendered expectations of their peers.

Overall, though, the adaptation struggles to remain on point. Good ideas abound, but this early in the project’s development, some of these biscuits feel half-baked. A superficial take on Maggie (Crystal Diaz) creates problems for the production. While in this ensemble adaptation she is no longer the star, her character as embodied here should still ring true; it does not. To treat Maggie as a woman hungry for sex and power without looking at her other needs or desires is to rob her of her dignity, and to victimize Brick. Perhaps there was more nuance intended in the Ella Martin's Stage and Cinema LA review of Theatre of NOTE's HOT CAT.performance, but Diaz’s frequently frenetic delivery of the text garbled her words and intentions.

Brick’s (David Guerra) characteristic disconnectedness becomes even more pronounced opposite an oversimplified Maggie, and interferes with the production’s ability to create a conflicted, mutually unsatisfactory relationship dynamic that will engage an audience. While Guerra’s characterization is passionate and physically present, the text does not allow him many more opportunities to open up emotionally than Williams’ original; an odd choice on Alger’s part, especially when so much time is given to unmasking the inner workings of Brick’s brother Gooper and sister-in-law Mae. (And, yes, Brick could sing a song about the infamous “click” — but does he need to?)

The most integrated performances of this Cat are to be found in David LM McIntyre’s brilliantly versatile Gooper and Blaire Chandler’s ecstatically adorable Big Mama. Eric Neil Gutierrez is convincing as Big Daddy, although he seems to be Ella Martin's Stage and Cinema LA review of Theatre of NOTE's HOT CAT.about the same age as Guerra’s Brick, who is supposed to be his son. As Mae, Jenny Soo is appropriately irritating and energetic, though a bit wearisomely invulnerable. The ensemble looks great in Amanda Lee’s spot-on period costumes.

This adaptation is funny, quick, and very close to being moving, though still a bit rough around the edges. Perhaps supportive audiences and two more months of shows (first at Theatre of NOTE and then at the Hollywood Fringe) will give it the space a new piece of ensemble-devised theatre sometimes needs in order to mature.

photos by Darrett Sanders

Hot Cat
Theatre Movement Bazaar
Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd, Hollywood
scheduled to end on June 1, 2013
for tickets, call 323-856-8611 or visit http://www.theatreofnote.com

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