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The Little Foxes
Vortex Theatre

Also see our review of A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline

The Little Foxes
Vern Poitras and Linda Williams
Lillian Hellman was arguably the most famous playwright of the thirties and forties. Like many of her dozen plays, The Little Foxes presents a social problem of her day (greed and the growing gulf between rich and poor in the racially segregated South) set in a past era (1900). In two other famous plays, The Children's Hour and A Watch on the Rhine, the issues are a vicious campaign of rumors about two school mistresses having an intimate relationship at a rural New England boarding school that destroys the women and the school and a family that is destroyed by the rise of Nazism.

Director Hal Simons, who recently directed The Diary of Anne Frank for ABQ Stages and Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde at the Vortex, chose The Little Foxes for its "blazing theatrics." This season this timely drama of family back-stabbing and grand larceny is being revived in Albuquerque as well as Off-Broadway.

In the Ibsen tradition of the "well-made play," The Little Foxes introduces us to the Hubbard siblings—Ben, Oscar, and Regina—a family of merchants hungry to make millions in order to rise into the Southern gentility. Craig Stoebling, who recently appeared in Anne Frank and in Glengarry Glen Ross at Vortex, plays Ben as the cold-hearted money-grubbing brother who shoves his brother aside while bargaining with his cannier sister.

Vern Poitras, who has appeared in over 70 Albuquerque productions since 1990, plays Oscar as a desperate, foolish man easily manipulated by his sharper siblings. He's married into the land-owning class that the Hubbards crave. Linda Williams, who recently appeared in Anne Frank, plays Oscar's wife Birdie with fluttering sweetness. Birdie yearns to return to the gentler old Lionnet plantation where nobody ever lost their temper. Leonard Hughes, recent UNM theater graduate, plays their son Leo as a stupid, vicious chip off the old block.

Marcia Tippit, a visual arts teacher and frequent performer and director in Albuquerque theater, stepped in at the eleventh hour to play the glamorous and venomous Regina Hubbard Giddens. Her subdued performance with script in hand opening night hints at the fiery performance she may give when off-book and drawing the other characters into combat with her. Since the Hubbard patriarch divided his fortune between his two sons, Regina has been left to make her wealth through marriage to Horace Giddens, a banker she tried to push toward prosperity. But Horace, ailing and absent for most of the drama, shares Birdie's kinder approach to life.

Steve Suttle, recently seen in Mass Appeal and God at Aux Dog, plays the pale, defeated Horace gasping out his last breath in a wheelchair but doted on by his seventeen-year-old daughter. Ari Echt-Wilson, a sophomore at La Cueva High School who recently played the title role in Anne Frank, plays daughter Alexandra as a silent shadow until the final moments when she rises to resist her mother with convincing moral fiber.

Framing the story of the racist Hubbards are two servants treated as slaves by the three siblings but more kindly by Alexandra, Birdie, and Horace. Cynthia Thompson from New York in her premiere Albuquerque performance plays Addie, who keeps the Giddens' household running by consoling and rewarding her favorites and rolling her eyes and resisting the brutal others. Kenneth McGlothin, an Albuquerque native with TV, film, and theatre acting credits, plays young Cal as the charming but bumbling servant ordered around by everyone.

Bruce Squire, Albuquerque's only bagpiping CPA, returns to acting at the Vortex as Chicago tycoon William Marshall, eager to take the Hubbards' money to finance a cotton mill.

Matt Naegli has created a sumptuous set that sweeps across the width of the performance space, utilizing a front hall, a parlor, an office area, and an interior dining area. Heavy dark oak and walnut furniture with brocade upholstery, ornate gilt-framed family portraits, and a tall writing desk with bookcase take the audience into the period before action begins. Josh Bien's lighting punctuates significant moments, while Jaime Pardo's voluptuous costumes exaggerate and imprison the characters, emblematic of the tangled facade they display.

In the fifties and sixties Hellman published several volumes of memoirs. When she was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952 at the height of the anti-Communist craze, she refused to cooperate and stated, "I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions." Reviving Hellman's drama on our stages may encourage us to revive her political ethics.

The Little Foxes will be presented at The Vortex Theatre, 2004 Central Ave. NE, Albuquerque, through October 31, 2010, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 6 pm. For reservations, visit vortexabq.org or call 505 247 8600. Tickets are $15, cash, check, Visa or Mastercard. Pay what you can on Sunday October 17.


Photo: Alan Mitchell

See the schedule of theatre productions in the Albuquerque area

-- Rosemary Keefe



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