THE LITTLE FOXESBy Lillian Hellman
MainStage Irving-Las Colinas
Stage Manager?Rob Stephens
Set Designer?Ellen Mizener
Lighting Designer?Sam Nance
Costume Designer?Justin Kailer
Sound Designer?Richard Frohlich
Prop Designer?Jo Anne Hull
Cal?J. R. Bradford
Birdie Hubbard?Debbie Hurley
Oscar Hubbard?Neil Rogers
Leo Hubbard?Brandon Simmons
Regina Giddens?Laura Jones
William Marshall?David Smith
Benjamin Hubbard?Doug Fowler
Alexandra Giddens?Shannon Walsh
Horace Giddens?Corey Whaley
Reviewed Performance: 3/26/2011
Reviewed by Kristopher A. Harrison, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
"don't miss" theatre experience for the Metroplex.
The Little Foxes, Lillian Hellman's second play, told the story of the Hubbard family. Two brothers, Oscar and Ben, have plans to build a cotton mill in their turn of the century Southern town. They know the mill will make them rich, but they lack the final $7,500 dollars to complete the deal. For that, they've turned to their sister Regina whose husband Horace has the money they need. Horace's heart condition forced him to spend several months at a hospital out of town, and the brothers have trusted Regina to convince him to come through with the final piece of the investment that will have them all set for life. Yet Regina has plans of her own, and is tired of living in the shadow of her brothers. The play was a searing commentary on capitalist greed and peeled back the outer fa?ade of this southern family to reveal the ugliness that ultimately lies at the heart of each of us.
The strength of this production is in the acting. The challenge of producing an older play like this one (it was originally produced in 1939) often lies in making the production relevant to modern audiences. This cast has certainly overcome that obstacle.
Director Chris Robinson should be commended for having allowed his actors to explore every ounce of subtle sub-text. The play oozed with tense moments of unspoken conflict, without being melodramatic. Every actor in the production was quite talented, and the way they worked together created a production that gripped the audience tightly and didn't let us go until the end.
The two brothers, Ben and Oscar (played by Doug Fowler and Neil Rogers, respectively) began their work as stereotypical "good old boy" Southern businessmen, but quickly nuanced their roles to be smarmy, vulnerable, and ruthless. Doug Fowler, in particular, turned in one of the best, most consistent performances I've seen in a while.
Laura Jones, as Regina, was emotional yet calculated; passionate, yet chilling.
I was very pleased, too, to see a standout performance by a younger actor?in this case Brandon Simmons. I've never described an actor as "slack jawed" before and meant it as a compliment, but Simmons' portrayal of the young Leo, a capitalist greed-monger in training, was one part simpleton doofus and one part borderline psychotic. Most directors would have let an actor as talented as Simmons have free reign and end up being little more than comic relief, but Chris Robinson is to be commended for allowing Simmons to be funny when we needed him to be, yet not allowing his humor to kill the tension that was always just under the surface.
Finally, Debbie Hurley must be noted for her portrayal of Birdie, the only adult in the family with a shred of goodness in her. Hurley's monologue work in Act III was worth the ticket price alone.
The designers did a good job of creating an environment that matched the tension of the character's emotional lives. The set and costumes were lush and rich, especially noteworthy because of the difficult time period in which the play was set (it takes place in 1900). I particularly enjoyed one feature of the set design that allowed us to see characters coming in and out of the front door before the other characters could see them. The actors and the director used those moments when they were seen only by the audience to give us just a peek into the inner lives of the characters before they were forced to put on their social mask and enter the drawing room.
At times the lighting and sound design was a bit heavy-handed?good, just distracting. That seems a minor criticism, though, when the production as a whole was so well crafted. Make plans to go and see this production, and you won't be disappointed.
ICT MainStage at Dupree Theater, Irving Arts Center,
3333 N. MacArthur Blvd. Irving, TX 75062
Plays through April 9th
Run time around 2 hours, 10 minutes.
Fridays & Saturdays, April 1, 2, 8, 9, 2011 at 8pm.
Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 8pm.
Sundays, April 3, 2011 at 2:30pm.
Tickets: $20 Adults/$18 Students/Seniors
For tickets and information, go to www.irvingtheatre.org or
call (972) 252-2787 (ARTS)