The Cat’s Meow

In the end-of-semester rush, a delightful distraction like a play can be a warm welcome.

Theatre NDSU’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” wraps the second half of its run this Thursday through Saturday, offering free performances to students to see a show best associated with the late actress Elizabeth Taylor, who starred in the film produced in the late 1950s.

“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” is small in its setting but big in its story.

Six actors playing six members of a dysfunctional Southern family rotting at its roots as its patriarch faces mortality, his son spirals into alcoholism and Maggie, the titular cat, yearns for her first child.

Portraying Maggie, Taylor Fay has her hands full in the first act, showing her passionate character’s wide range of emotions while keeping her Southern accent in check.

Her husband Brick, played by Austin Koenig, stumps constantly across the stage on his crutch to the liquor cabinet, ignoring most of what his wife has to say.

The two’s marriage has seen better days, as the former sports star faces the gone glory of the old days while his bodacious wife has to beg and plead for any shred of a sex life.

Around these two swirl the other members of this broken family: Big Daddy (Sam Olson), a wealthy plantation owner stricken with terminal cancer and a year left to live; Big Mama (Maddie Sharpe, in a perfect role), his underappreciated wife; Gooper (James Fornes), Brick’s even more underappreciated brother and Mae (Kami Sim), Gooper’s venomous, pregnant wife.

The whole show seems like a scrapped episode of “Desperate Housewives” and its actors manage to pull off something that could all too easily be compared to its ’50s film predecessor.

While their accents falter at times, particularly during shouting matches (cover your ears), these students breathe some new life into an old story.

Koenig takes up the drunken bumbling and stumbling of his character quite well, and delivers some of the best lines of the show. His Southern accent is also arguably the best of the cast.

Then there’s Olson as the dirty old man who hates his whole family except for Brick. No one lives forever, but Big Daddy can’t accept that or his terminal cancer diagnosis.

In fairness to him, nobody likes being told on their birthday that they’ll never see another.

Finally, Sim is a standout as the sweet-then-sour expectant mother with nothing good to say about her childless sister-in-law.

With 80 seats on all four sides of the stage, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” is nothing like Theatre NDSU’s performances for Festival Concert Hall’s 1,000 seats. This play is just as intimate as it is intense.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday

WHERE: Walsh Studio Theatre

PRICE: Free for students

MORE INFO: 701.231.7969

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