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Wednesday, March 7,2012

'Cat' on the prowl at LCC

by Tom Helma
A conversation with director Deborah  Keller is a show in itself.

She is all grasping passionate gestures, much like a Martha Graham version of a Sufi dancer, a whirling dervish of enthusiastic energy, of agitated excitement.

Keller, who is directing Lansing Community College Theatre’s “Cat on A Hot Tin Roof,” is all noisy nouns and arresting adjectives, punching out her words — “muscularity,” “centeredness,” “fragility,” “desire” — and suggesting that for this play to be done well, the actors must “fight” for the reality of the moment.

She calls Tennessee Williams’ story of a Southern couple locked in a frosty marriage “a text lying on top of a whole world.”

“Tennessee was not just writing about the abstract notions of love and hate,” she says, “but rather — and much more importantly — about the volatile life-dynamics of a living, breathing family.” 

The “Cat” cast features Sineh Wurie as Brick, the former football star who drinks heavily to deal with his problems, and Amy Winchell as Maggie, his hot-blooded wife, who claws away at Brick’s defenses in the hopes of saving their relationship. 

Keller has added an extra dimension to the drama by making Brick and Maggie´s family racially mixed, a choice that surprised Wurie.

“I was shocked when I got cast,” he said. “But I think it really works. I think no one in the cast really focuses on it; everyone concentrates on their character’s intent and the original text.” 

Although Wurie is a veteran actor, this is his first time appearing in a Williams play.

“He is such a brilliant writer. He lays everything out before you, but you don’t always know it until you go back and look again.”

Although “Cat” premiered on Broadway in 1955 — and was filmed three years later with Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie and Paul Newman as Brick — Wurie says the story hasn’t lost its charge, particularly in its portrayal of Brick’s sexual confusion and frustrated desires.

“The complexity and the three-dimensional quality of the character attracted me,” Wurie said. “I thought it would be a wonderful challenge.

 “It still is relevant in the way it touches on homosexuality. Even with all the advances we’ve made in society, that’s still a touchy subject.”


‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’

Through March 24

Lansing Community College 

Dart Auditorium

8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sunday, March 18

$10; $5 for LCC staff, faculty, alumni and students

(517) 372-0945

lcc.edu/cma/events

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