It was acclaimed an instant hit after a hugely successful opening night in , even though drama and literary critics then, as now, disagreed over whether the melodramatic story of the greed-driven Hubbard family succeeds either as a morality play or as a satire. Certainly moral dissembling lies at the heart of the play: the Hubbard siblings steal, deceive, and plot against each other in their efforts to invest in one of the first cotton mills to industrialize the New South, a plan that stands to win them millions of dollars. Their daughter serves as a moral standard who dislikes the family machinations. Unfortunately, Alexandra is too young to defy them. The Hubbards are a family prone to deceit, caught in a cycle of revenge not unlike Greek classical tragedies. The family forbears harvested their merchant profits by overcharging the newly freed slaves, and now the Hubbards will create a larger dynasty on the toil of poor workers, who will flock to the cotton mill for its paltry wages.
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The latter part is closely associated with Tallulah Bankhead who originated the role on Broadway in and Bette Davis who starred in the film. Under the scrupulous direction of Daniel Sullivan, Linney and Nixon prove that there is more than one way to skin a fox, with two highly contrasting interpretations that change the way we look at the play. Marshall David Alford to bring a cotton mill to their small Southern town. But Regina cannot provide her share of the investment without the approval of her husband, Horace Richard Thomas , who is convalescing in Baltimore.
Regina sends her daughter, Alexandra Francesca Carpanini , to retrieve him, seeming to care more about money than the well-being of her spouse. Meanwhile, she plots to increase her share of the profit and marry Alexandra off to her stupid cousin, Leo a wonderfully oblivious Michael Benz , in an effort to keep the money in the family. The aristocratic planters of Birdie's family once looked down upon them, but times have changed: "Twenty years ago we took over their land, their cotton, and their daughter," Ben explains to Marshall in a story punctuated by Birdie slamming her hands down on the keys of the family piano.
Just as Lopakhin's rise was made possible by the liberation of the serfs in imperial Russia, it is clear that the end of slavery is what prompted this reversal of fortunes in the Old South. Even as this fact hovers in the background, The Little Foxes is guilty of romanticizing the slaveholding gentry of yore in its condemnation of the greedy bourgeoisie that has taken its place.
Like Boucicault and Beecher Stowe before her, Hellman reinforces classism as a way to condemn racism: The Hubbards, we are told, have made a fortune nickel-and-diming black folks. Conversely, the altruistic Birdie implores Oscar to stop hunting so that the local black hunters won't starve.
One might be led to believe that Birdie and her ilk are better stewards of the South, but at least this revival points out the absurdity of that contention. It is a grunt of dissent that is vague enough to be heard as agreement by the nostalgic and wine-drunk white people around her. Watching Clay's facial expressions throughout is a show unto itself, as she provides a running commentary with her eyes. This is one of the many little ways that Sullivan and his cast offer a subtly fresh take on The Little Foxes in what outwardly looks like a very traditional revival.
Scott Pask's stately parlor set is bedecked in rich draperies, with brocade upholstery on its heavy wooden furniture. Plaster peels from the ceilings in the southern heat. Lighting designer Justin Townsend creates the authentic feel of gaslight in the first act, natural light in the second, and a rainy afternoon in the third, with water streaking down the windowpanes. Jane Greenwood's gorgeous period costumes seem to outwardly express the inner truth about the characters.
Regina's gothic cocktail dress is particularly memorable, all black and purple with a yellow or is it gold? This wicked-queen look goes perfectly with Linney's effortlessly icy interpretation of Regina. She's the kind of over-the-top villain whose bad behavior we secretly relish. By contrast, her Birdie is a gushing wound of a woman: She drinks wine the way she consumes oxygen, leading her to uncontrolled giggles or tears.
Linney displays an impressive emotional range in her two performances. Nixon, on the other hand, keeps everything on a narrower spectrum: Her Birdie is more fragile than any woman concocted by Tennessee Williams.
All smiles and sweetness, her Regina at first seems cut from the same cloth, until we recognize her for what she really is: a poisoned peach. Even scarier, we get the sense that Nixon's Regina still believes that she is a good person wronged by the circumstances of her sex.
Her strategic inertia gives her plausible deniability for her most detestable crimes: She can always count on the idiot men in her family to do her dirty work for her.
Several of the supporting players also make big impressions: Thomas brings an unexpected levity to Horace, a man who can only laugh his way to the grave at this point. Charles Turner keeps us smiling as Cal, the male housekeeper who is not nearly as tuned in to the subtext as Addie.
McKean brings a comic sensibility to the role of mean older brother Ben. His electric encounters with both Reginas are worth the price of admission alone. At least, that is what we are meant to do, but are the Hubbards really worse than the self-styled lords and ladies of Dixie?
Why is inherited wealth somehow purer than wealth attained by scratching and clawing like little foxes around a vineyard in bloom? Those questions remain with us, no matter who is playing what role in this must-see revival.
Author Zachary Stewart. Locations Broadway. Tagged in this Story.
The Little Foxes Summary
The Little Foxes is a play by Lillian Hellman , considered a classic of 20th century drama. Its title comes from Chapter 2, Verse 15 of the Song of Solomon in the King James version of the Bible , which reads, "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes. The play's focus is Southerner Regina Hubbard Giddens, who struggles for wealth and freedom within the confines of an early 20th-century society where fathers considered only sons as their legal heirs. As a result of this practice, while her two avaricious brothers Benjamin and Oscar have wielded the family inheritance into two independently substantial fortunes, she's had to rely upon her manipulation of her cautious, timid, browbeaten husband, Horace. He's no businessman, just her financial support; although he's pliable enough for her ambition, that ambition has driven him into becoming merely the tool of her insatiable greed.
The Little Foxes
Welcome sign in sign up. Affirmation, enjoyed by that which passes beyond the claim of mere entertainment, will inevitably be a statement of principle, a rebuttal to counter-claims. The de luxe conventional gives the greatest possible pleasure to the public and the critics—you can almost reach out and touch the joy our people feel when these two things, in any aspect of our national life, come together. All we ask is to be left alone, with a certain amount of style. And yet how wearying is the air in which The Little Foxes drifts, the sky rich with stars, the earth voluptuous with stuffs, the setting heavy and dark, pampered like some plum-plushy whorehouse in which the girls are no longer young but ripe and experienced in giving customer-satisfaction. It was too much from the beginning. What was being produced?
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February 14 marks the anniversary of the original Broadway production of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes, which opened in at the National Theatre now the Nederlander. The play follows Southern belle Regina and her brothers as they scheme to outwit Regina's husband Horace, who opposes their attempts to profit from a cotton factory in partnership with a Chicago businessman. Its next revival, this time in , served as the long-awaited Broadway debut of Elizabeth Taylor, who starred as Regina opposite Maureen Stapleton's Birdie. Tallulah Bankhead Vandamm Studio. Anne Bancroft and Cast Elizabeth Taylor in The Little Foxes. Recommended Reading:.