There is nothing like a family tragedy that can bring out the best -- or worst -- in people.

In the case of the Pollitt family, what emerges is more along the lines of "worst" when they gather at the patriarch's Mississippi plantation home for his 65th birthday.

Aurora Community Theatre opens 2013 with Tennessee Williams's "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," which runs through Feb. 16. The play is a marathon, running at about three hours, but the intensity of the cast makes the time go quickly.

"It's an inspiring piece, and it's an intimidating piece," said Craig Joseph, who makes his directorial debut with the theater with this show. "I've always liked Tennessee Williams because I like language but it is a challenge because there is not a lot of action. The entire play is the characters talking to each other. The challenge is bringing that conflict."

The play focuses on the dynamics of three couples. The first couple the audience sees is Maggie (played by Sarah Doody) and her husband Brick (played by Michael Laymon). Brick is the younger son of Big Daddy and Big Mama (played by Robert McCoy and Claudia Lillibridge), a former athlete and sports announcer who has disappeared into the bottle because of his disappointments and a personal tragedy. He pointedly ignores his wife through much of the play, while Maggie tries desperately to rekindle their love and to thwart the ambitions of Brick's older brother Gooper (played by Justin W. Williams) and his wife Mae (played by Julia Zook), who are trying to get into Big Daddy's good graces and become the heirs to the patriarch's considerable fortune and estate. The plotting and scheming are intensified with Big Daddy's diagnosis of terminal cancer.

Big Daddy, however, favors Brick over Gooper, and desperately tries to connect with him. Big Mama, who is devoted to her husband, is continuously belittled and put down by the cynical and restless Big Daddy. Even Gooper and Mae, who on the surface seem to have a stable relationship (their union has produced six children, with one on the way) and a united front in discrediting Brick and Maggie, have cracks in their marriage that echo the problems of the parents and the younger brother. The cast does a commendable job in bringing the dynamics of the characters and the relationships to life.

"I think what is great is its eight characters dealing with love," Joseph said. "They are wanting love, hiding away from love, fighting for love."

Joseph said the appeal of the show lies in its characters.

"Even if you don't live in a southern delta house, there are still things in the characters that will resonate," he said.

Rounding out the cast are Timothy McDermott, who plays the Reverend Tooker, and Bill Cleary, who plays Doc Baugh, the family physician. Also in the cast, playing Gooper and Mae's children, are Brooke Turner, Dakoda Burge, Madelyn Rennecker, Eli Charmley, Jacob Charmley and Zoe Testa.

Ticket and show information

Tickets at $16 for adults and are available online, including seat selection, at, or call the box office at 330-562-1818. Group discounts are available by calling the box office.

Aurora Community Theatre is at 115 E. Pioneer Trail, near the intersection of routes 43 and 306, at the gazebo.

Next on stage

Aurora Community Theatre's next mainstage show will be the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar," which will run April 26 through May 18.

The theater also will stage "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) March 1 through 9 as a fundraiser.

One Acts Festival

Aurora Community Theatre also is hosting a playwrighting competition. Playwrights are encouraged to submit their plays, which must be no more than 10 minutes. The deadline is Feb. 27. Visit the theater's website for details.

The top entries will be staged at the theater Aug. 16 and 17, and 23 and 24.