28,000 Acres of the Richest Land

David Vargas and Dan Yount

David Vargas and Dan Yount


This month, The Arlington Players are producing Tennessee Williams’ melodramatic classic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.   The theatre doesn’t hide the production’s set and lighting design behind a curtain, and they expertly convey contrasts of glamour, wealth, and decay.  We expect Maggie the Cat to just stroll in from the gallery at any moment, and once she arrives, she delivers.  Cassandra Hodziewich takes control of the house upon her entrance, delivering her soliloquy of frustration with her family of Pollitt in-laws, layered with a desperate longing for her distant and alcoholic husband, Brick.  Maggie explains the situation in the house on this, the last of Big Daddy Pollitt’s birthdays in her soft delta drawl while casually deciding on a dress.  Of course, there’s nothing casual about it.

David Vargas as Brick is as sullen and removed as one could hope, and he draws Hodziewich across the stage to him without seeming to care at all.  He progresses from near-silence, to shouts of rancor, to soft singing, all the while taking long draughts from his bottles of whisky (yes, bottles – midway through the show I had lost count).  In his single-minded search for the elusive “click in [his] head that brings peace”, the injured Brick manages to expose his internal struggle to each member of the Pollitt clan, as they come in groups and by ones and twos to his room.

The production’s most powerful performance comes from Dan Yount as Big Daddy.  His loud, bawdy, and emotional portrayal of the Pollitt patriarch holds the whole of the play in its grip.  The long scene between Brick and Big Daddy is one of my favorite in literature, and I was very pleased with what I got from the two actors.  By turns they discuss Brick’s faded glory, his alcoholism, his dead best friend Skipper and the latent homosexuality of their friendship, Big Daddy’s marriage to a woman he never loved, both men’s contempt for the elder son, Gooper and his family (especially his passel of “no-neck monster” children and scheming, bitter wife Mae – played wonderfully by Karen Batra).  Vargas and Yount expose the anxiety and despair in both men’s lives, gradually and painfully working their way to the truth and a new bond between them.  Their agreement to no longer tolerate “lies and liars” all around who exude “the powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity” is wonderfully undermined when Maggie spontaneously lies to Big Daddy, saying she is pregnant in order to secure her husband’s future and her own marriage, and Brick confidently backs her in the face of Mae and Gooper’s utterly scornful disbelief.

Director Blakeman Brophy’s choices play up the fifties melodrama at work in the show, to great effect.  With a wonderful leading cast and a beautiful set design, the show is a pleasure to watch.  Catch the final weekend performances through February 14 at the Thomas Jefferson Theatre.

*Update: Fellow Metblogger Patrick Pho is on the crew of this production and graciously provided tickets for this review. Thanks for reminding me, Patrick!

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