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‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ revived in Fullerton, ‘Painting Churches’ in Anaheim

There’s a lot of pretense and denial when it comes to aging and dying, especially in terms of loved ones. It would be hard to find two more disparate treatments of the topic than those currently on view on the OC storefront theatre scene, in Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (running through Sept. 21 at Fullerton’s STAGEStheatre) and Tina Howe’s “Painting Churches” (through Sept. 7 at Anaheim’s Gallery Theatre).

While Hollywood neutered “Cat” when the play was filmed in the 1950s, unable to deal with its undertones of homosexuality, director Joe Parrish unleashes the beast—as potent as anything Williams ever wrote—with claws sharpened. He also sinks his teeth into the role of Big Daddy, the dying patriarch of the Mississippi Delta-dwelling Pollitt clan, delivering one of his best performances.

Lysa Apostle Dacus more than matches Parrish as his desperate, jealous daughter-in-law Maggie; the cup runneth over with sexual tension in her exchanges with Mathew Migliorini, who provides a fine contrast as the sullen, self-destructive Brick. Rose London offers a beautifully nuanced portrayal of Big Mama, as she evolves from wholesale denial to tearful acceptance of Daddy’s terminal condition. Call 714-525-4484 or visit stagesoc.org.
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Hollywood also diluted “Painting Churches” when the hit 1980s play was turned it into a TV movie (retitled “The Portrait”). Judy Jones and Bob K0kol are both touching and funny—and utterly flawless—under Mark Torreso’s attentive direction at the Gallery, as the delightfully dotty Fanny Church and her devoted husband Gardner, a distinguished New England poet slipping into senility.

Though she’s lit up many a show with her effervescence, Patti Francisco seems sadly miscast as the less than dutiful daughter who’s too busy with her career to worry about her aging parents, and comes home more to paint their portrait than to visit. While she’s appropriately insensitive, her loud and abrasive Mags is largely at odds with my take on the character. Call 714-630-9870 or visit thegallerytheatre.com.

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