By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

'We're all in there'

Marcus Larson/News-RegisterGooper (Webb Thomas) and Mae (Charity Benham) comfort Big Mama (Antonia Osterhout) as she is informed by Doc Baugh (Walt Haight) that Big Daddy is dying.
Marcus Larson/News-Register
Gooper (Webb Thomas) and Mae (Charity Benham) comfort Big Mama (Antonia Osterhout) as she is informed by Doc Baugh (Walt Haight) that Big Daddy is dying.
Marcus Larson/News-RegisterBrick (Lance Nuttman) argues with Big Daddy (Dave Lund) about Brick’s ongoing depression.
Marcus Larson/News-Register
Brick (Lance Nuttman) argues with Big Daddy (Dave Lund) about Brick’s ongoing depression.

“It speaks to issues that are ever-present. It’s about a family,” said Desel, who retired after teaching theater at Linfield College and Chemeketa Community College.

And it’s about the secrets we keep from one another and ourselves. “That’s a life issue,” he said.

The Tennessee Williams play will open Friday for a three-weekend run in the community theater at Second and Ford streets, McMinnville. Curtain will be at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays.

Tickets are $14 for adults and $12 for students and seniors; on the first Saturday, Gallery will offer buy one, get one free tickets.

Williams, whom Desel calls “a real American Southern poet and playwright,” also wrote “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “The Glass Menagerie.” Like “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” they also share a Southern setting in the period in which people are trying to hold onto antebellum traditions while struggling with changes in the larger world, including the civil rights movement.

“Cat” is set in the part of Mississippi where Williams grew up. His fictional family is ruled by Big Daddy, the wealthiest, most powerful plantation owner in the area. Big Daddy and Big Mama have two sons, the conventional Gooper, who became a lawyer, married well to Mae, and got busy producing grandchildren; and Brick, the favorite, a college football star who married a pretty, but poor girl named Maggie.

The story begins on the eve of Big Daddy’s 65th birthday, a double celebration for him, since he’s just been told that his chronic illness is not serious. When the whole family gathers, tensions rise and long-suppressed feelings erupt.

“It’s about mendacity, lies and habitual lies,” Desel said.

The play explores social mores, including various aspects of sexuality, alcoholism and religion. But it’s not all serious and depressing, Desel said; humor and light moments also are a part of the story, just as they are part of a family.

Desel said the playwright, Williams, is known for writing and rewriting his works and continuing to develop characters.

He created at least five different versions of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” including the 1975 rewrite Gallery is using. “Williams called that his favorite,” the director said.

The ending is intentionally ambivalent, Desel said, leaving it up to the audience to decide what happens to Big Daddy and his family.

“Tennessee Williams said he was putting the group into intense situations to see how the characters deal with the storm. He doesn’t want to draw conclusions for us,” he said.

As for the director, “I want the audience to listen to it and find themselves. We’re all in there.”

Desel said Gallery’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” cast is doing a great job with the play.

Dave Lund and Antonia Osterhout are Big Daddy and Big Mama. Julia Sargent and Lance Nuttman play Maggie and Brick. Gooper and Mae are played by Webb Thomas and Charity Benham.

Other cast members are Norm Tognazzini as Rev. Tooker, Walt Haight as Doc Baugh, Shanet Abeyta as Sookey, Naomi Benham as Dixie, Mya Abeyta as Trixie and Garner Wall as Buster.

Robert Osterhout is the stage manager and lighting designer, and Vicky Ragsdale is assistant stage manager.

Ben Frum helped with construction, along with Naomi Benham and Tognazinni. Mike Pace is sound designer. Angela Janssen is running lights.

Jean Schroeder is the costumer. Rolan Cranford did hair, wigs and makeup. Debbra Millard styled Sargent’s hair. Stephanie Belt-Verhoef choreographed the children’s parts.

For reservations and tickets, call the box office at 503-472-2227.

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