The story revolves around the birthday party of Big Daddy, patriarch of the clan, which also includes his wife Big Mama, sons Brick and Gooper, and their wives Maggie and Mae. The family is gathered not just to celebrate his birthday but also to help cushion the blow that the news of Big Daddy's cancer will deliver to Big Mama. Underlying the action are the various internal dramas between married couples and parents and children.
The play was written as a vehicle for the incredibly complicated character of Maggie, and Amy Kreiter takes the role and runs with it (her authentic Mississippi accent doesn't hurt a bit). Kreiter delivers her lines flawlessly, seamlessly alternating venom and compassion, sometimes within the same sentence. Maggie is essentially a sympathetic character, longing for the love of her husband Brick while at the same time despising his weak descent into self-pity and alcoholism.
Chad Money does a fine job as aging football star Brick, the younger and favorite son of Big Daddy. Brick is a man whose failed expectations have left him always searching for that elusive “click” that comes with just the right number of drinks. Veteran MLT actor John Lake is convincing as Big Daddy, the bullying, self-made man who is losing his grip on his family and his life.
Also convincing in her role of Big Mama is Angie Weaver as the pathetic, clinging wife who has lost her own identity while trying to please everyone else. The rest of the cast does a good job of supporting the central characters - including the wonderfully irritating “no-necked monsters,” the exploited children of Gooper and Mae.
The sparse stage setting successfully evokes a Southern plantation on a hot and sticky summer night - all that's missing are the ceiling fans and white shutters. A warning - as director Ken Maciula points out in all the ads and in the program, this play is not suitable for children. Not only is there some language that may offend, the subject matter deals with adult themes and problems and the atmosphere is tense.
This weekend marks the final performances of the play - Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 and Sunday afternoon at 2:30, in the Middlesboro Central Auditorium. Admission is $8 adults, $5 students and seniors. Spending two hours immersed in the world of Tennessee Williams is a wonderful way to spend an evening, and has the added benefit of putting all of your problems into perspective.
Martha Wiley is a Correspondent for the Daily News. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.