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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Excaliber Shakespeare Company of Chicago, at Pulaski Park. This troupe's always provocative color-blind casting aside, director Darryl Maximilian Robinson plays Williams's quintessential tale of family dysfunction and emotional impotence fairly straight. Perhaps too straight. Though Robinson does a good job of locating the play's humor, this staging barely scratches the work's surface, nailing the obvious tensions between the characters but missing most of the underlying mind games: when Maggie and Brick argue over whether to have a baby, it seems more a simple quarrel than an epic battle of wits. Which is a shame, since the cast--especially Drew Nye and Khristian Leslie as brothers Brick and Gooper Pollitt--generally do a solid job of portraying these thick-skulled, obsessive-compulsive southerners.

They've made one critical mistake, however--holding Williams's words too sacrosanct. The actors deliver their lines with a religious sort of zeal, laboring over each word and pausing for a reaction. Ultimately the combination of excessive dramatic flourishes and sluggish pacing turns a long but tightly crafted script into an even longer laborious one; at well over three hours, Excaliber's staging might test the patience of even the most ardent Williams enthusiast.

--Nick Green

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