The Little Foxes

‘THE LITTLE FOXES’: Laura Linney & Darren Goldstein. Photo: Joan Marcus

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THE LITTLE FOXES
Written by Lillian Hellman
Directed by Daniel Sullivan
Through July 2, 2017
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th Street
(212-239-6200),www.ManhattanTheatreClub.com

 

 

By Scott Harrah

Greed is the primary deadly sin among the many that run rampant in Manhattan Theatre Club’s brilliant revival of Lillian Hellman’s most enduring play The Little Foxes. There is jasmine in the air, mint in the juleps and backstabbing at every turn in this tale of the Deep South. Cotton is king and the family plays each other as pawns to get the biggest share from the ill-gotten gains.

The Little Foxes is Ms. Hellman’s most accessible drama because it is so intricately constructed, timeless, and a classic. The show was first produced on Broadway in 1939 with Tallulah Bankhead, and has featured everyone from Elizabeth Taylor and Anne Bancroft to Stockard Channing over the years. This outstanding revival showcases Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon, alternating the roles of Regina Giddens and Birdie Hubbard with the “blue” cast (Ms. Linney as Regina) and “green” cast (Ms. Nixon as Regina). It’s a winning gimmick indeed (this review is of a performance with Ms. Linney as Regina and Ms. Nixon as Birdie), but the true beauty of the show is how Ms. Hellman’s story holds up nearly 80 years after it was first mounted. Greed and family dysfunction have not changed much since 1900 Alabama (when the play is set).

This Southern Gothic tale is set in a small Alabama town, centering on the struggle for controlling a family business. Regina Hubbard is a formidable villainess, a woman wanting to gain financial control of her life because her ailing husband Horace (Richard Thomas) is in a Baltimore hospital with a heart condition and she must rely on him for money. Meanwhile, her brothers Oscar (Darren Goldstein) and Ben (Michael McKean) live well off the inheritance from their father and his profitable plantation and cotton fields, with money made off the backs of low-paid African-American workers.

The brothers want to build a new cotton mill and they ask Regina for money (an additional $75,000), but she has to get the funds from her sick husband Horace. The three-act drama has a riveting narrative filled with family machinations as we see the lengths the family goes to due to their avarice, including suggesting a marriage between first cousins Leo (Michael Benz) and Alexandra (Francesca Carpanini).

Birdie Hubbard (a role alternated in this production by Ms. Linney and Ms. Nixon) is the alcoholic wife of Oscar. She’s a delicate flower indeed, physically abused by her husband, dependent on his wealth, with a penchant for elderberry wine and clinging to the fading gentility of the old South. In the “blue” cast, Ms. Nixon’s portrayal of Birdie is haunting and heartbreaking.

The show is flawlessly directed, designed and acted. Laura Linney as Regina is evil incarnate, and Cynthia as Birdie Huddard, Regina’s sister-in-law, is the charm that was the South. The production is ably supported by Michael McKean and Darren Goldstein as Regina’s conniving brothers. Richard Thomas as her husband Horace is simply wonderful. Caroline Stefanie Clay as maid Addie, and Francesca Carpanini, as Alexandra, are also noteworthy. This is a play that resonates today as it did in 1939 when it was first presented. The Little Foxes, directed by Daniel Sullivan, is one of the year’s best revivals.

 

 

 

 

Edited by David NouNou
Published April 24, 2017
Reviewed at press performance on April 23, 2017

The Little Foxes

‘THE LITTLE FOXES’: (left to right) Francesca Carpanini as Alexandra & Laura Linney as Regina. Photo: Joan Marcus

The Little Foxes

‘THE LITTLE FOXES’: Laura Linney as Regina. Photo: Joan Marcus

The Little Foxes

‘THE LITTLE FOXES’: Cynthia Nixon as Birdie & Francesca Carpanini as Alexandra. Photo: Joan Marcus

 

The Little Foxes

‘THE LITTLE FOXES’: Darren Goldstein & Michael Benz. Photo: Joan Marcus

The Little Foxes

‘THE LITTLE FOXES’: Richard Thomas & Caroline Stephanie Clay. Photo: Joan Marcus

The Little Foxes

‘THE LITTLE FOXES’: Michael McKean. Photo: Joan Marcus

The Little Foxes

‘THE LITTLE FOXES’: Darren Goldstein. Photo: Joan Marcus

The Little Foxes

‘THE LITTLE FOXES’ (Green Company): Cynthia Nixon as Regina & Laura Linney as Birdie. The two actresses alternate the roles at certain performances. Photo: Joan Marcus

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