Sizzling Southern dysfunction

Roseville’s Magic Circle Theatre takes on the Tennessee Williams classic
By: Paul Cambra Gold Country News Service
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And you thought dysfunctional family entertainment was only as old as the FOX network. Well move over Homer and Bart, because Brick, Maggie and Big Daddy are back. Tennessee Williams’ classic stage drama “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” is in the middle of a month-long run on Magic Circle Theatre’s main stage. But is Roseville ready for this dose of southern inhospitality? At least one observer thinks so. “We were impressed by the selection of Tennessee Williams’ edgy play, and we commend Magic Circle for venturing into a piece that challenges its audience with mature, some might say disturbing themes and acting,” said Mike Abbott, who caught one of the recent Sunday matinees. These themes were considered controversial enough in 1958 to water down the movie version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Magic Circle’s production, according to director Michelle Raskey, will be true to the original. “I think Roseville is ready for it,” Raskey said. “Art shouldn’t just be something you walk away from happy go lucky, it should provoke you on multiple levels. The best movies are ones that leave us crying at the end. It might not be pleasant, they might bring up unpleasant memories, but that’s life. It’s not always so great.” As much as Raskey feels overwhelmed with the challenge of taking on this timeless classic, lead actress Bridggett Bess has stepped into shoes immortalized by screen legend Elizabeth Taylor. “It’s absolutely flattering,” Bess said. “I like playing women that are feisty and sassy, fun and ambitious.” With southern roots herself (Bridggett’s mother was from Mississippi, her father from Memphis) Bess was up for the director’s challenge to delve into her character’s background. “Not everything is simple and easy to create, there’s a huge amount of work on the actors’ part,” Raskey said. “We had to create that Mississippi delta heat in a cold theater. Actors got into the relationships between characters and talked a lot about how they connect with each other. It was very helpful. The play’s characters are so multi-dimensional, not good or bad, they are just real. There are reasons why they act the way they do.” For those unfamiliar, the play follows the exploits of the wealthy Pollitt family during the 65th birthday celebration of patriarch Big Daddy, played by Ron Baker. His son Brick, played by Magic Circle veteran Blake Flores, is alcoholic, apathetic and unloving toward his wife, Maggie (Bess). The passionate and sexually frustrated Maggie was born into poverty and finds that marrying money has left her unfulfilled. “I saw her as one of those southern women who don’t have whole lot money wise, but do have integrity. They hold themselves in such a sophisticated way,” Bess said. “You can be resentful but rise above it in the way you treat people.” Raskey’s decision to cast an African-American woman in the lead role would be the only move that strays from the original stage production. “There was no reason for it other than Bridgett was the best woman for the role,” Raskey said. “She proves that over and over again every night.” So if you want to feel better about your own family, plan a trip to the Pollitt plantation, and sit in on their bickering, boozing and backstabbing, where old grudges never die and small victories are hard fought. “What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof?” asks Brick at one point during the play. “Just staying on it, I guess,” answers Maggie, “as long as she can.” Unlike that cat, the play will only stay around for two more weekends.