Sunday, March 3, 2019


They don’t write barn burners like THE LITTLE FOXES anymore (@ Lyric Stage through March 17). The Bette Davis movie of the Lillian Hellman gem has long been a favorite of mine. I recall many riveting stage productions over the years (including the Lyric’s) but I didn’t realize what new life there was in this chestnut. Scott Edmiston’s thrilling, almost gothic production (Dewey Dellay’s music sets the tone from the get-go) mines all the resonance Edmiston can find in this tale of a greedy, scheming Southern family nipping at each others’ heels.

The Hubbards will stop at nothing to increase their coffers. They find “virtue” in lying, cheating and underpaying everyone they can. The elder brother delivers a nifty speech about leaving his honest competitors in the dust, predicting that the business men of the future all will be “Hubbards.” (How did Hellman know this seventy years ago!)

Regina (Hubbard) Giddens, like Hedda Gabler, is a dream role for an actress. Anne Gottlieb reigns as the avenging daughter who, when only her brothers inherited their father’s wealth, married money and spends all her thoughts on getting more. Like Hedda, she wants to escape her provincial life and the restrictions of second class citizenship. She’s tired of depending on men. Hellman gives her the chance for payback in THE LITTLE FOXES.

Hellman has created another plum role in THE LITTLE FOXES: A sister-in-law named Birdie. She’s everything Regina is not. She represents the old South (mind you, from a white perspective). She’s genteel. She treats the Black servants with respect and she despairs over her husband’s hunting of animals for recreation. Everyone, even Birdie, knows Regina’s younger brother married her for her family’s cotton. So she drinks.

Amelia Broome gives a tour de force as the wounded, heartbroken Birdie. With every word Birdie utters, you know she’s holding back tears of grief …tears of wasted years …tears of physical abuse. Broome physically forces Birdie to keep her composure, although it’s a tipsy one, because she’s a “lady.” When the floodgates open, Broome leaves us devastated and amused at the same time over Birdie’s wobbly confession. It’s a terrific moment in the action.

The women in THE LITTLE FOXES really pack the punches in Edmiston’s production. Cheryl D. Singleton as Addie, the family’s “beloved” servant, conveys both Addie’s pride in running the household (and indulging Regina’s daughter) and her disdain for the avarice expressed in front of her as if she were invisible. Singleton masterfully plays the lines, as well as the repressed emotion under the lines. Hellman doesn’t say it outright but she hammers home the subservient plight of Blacks who are no longer slaves and yet they still slave for the new plantation class.

Addie has a powerful ally in Craig Mathers as Regina’s estranged, savvy husband. Mathers gives a strong performance as the one family member wise enough to challenge the Hubbard “take no prisoners” philosophy. Rosa Procaccino, as the sweet, innocent daughter, gradually learns what happens to powerless women and her transformation is wonderfully satisfying.

Kinson Theodoris is delightful in the role of the servant who keenly observes the white folk behaving badly. Theodoris steals the scene when he is asked to deliver a message which doesn’t make sense. He finally agrees to do it, but he departs, shaking his head at what foolish characters these white people are.

Remo Airaldi, Will McGarrahan and Michael John Ciszewski portray with frightening gusto (as Addie calls them) “the people who eat the earth and everything on it.” Bill Mootos in a small but effective role, aids and abets the Hubbard men by providing them an irresistible opportunity to amass yet another fortune. Don’t miss the chance to see what happens to men and women who worship money above all else.