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Washington DC by Tracy Lyon

The Little Foxes

George Bernard Shaw once said, "If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance." Shaw's comment certainly applies to the fictional family that fellow playwright Lillian Hellman portrayed in her classic play, The Little Foxes. Not only did Hellman create quite a few skeletons, she choreographed their dance beautifully.

Now playing at The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC, The Little Foxes is the tale of the Hubbard clan, an American family from the deep South. At first glance, this is a family that is the embodiment of Southern gentility and tradition. They fawn and flatter, all the while peppering their conversation with references to the Civil War, which is not yet a distant memory.

The Hubbards are a family made up of strong individuals. Three siblings are at the core of this group. Benjamin Hubbard acts as the patriarch of the family, although he has no children of his own. However, he prides himself with having control. Ben is an astute businessman who is charming at times but he never misses an opportunity for sarcasm. His brother, Oscar, is a weak and devious man. He walks around in a sour mood and has a penchant for abusing his fragile wife, Birdie. However, the true standout in this group is Regina. She possesses grace and beauty, but she is also ruthless. This is a woman who knows what she wants and will go to any lengths to get it. What Regina wants, in fact what all three siblings want, is money.

The opportunity to make money comes to them in the form of a business deal with a Northern entrepreneur. All seems well at first, but then a monkey wrench is thrown into the works and sparks start to fly. This seemingly cohesive group turns on each other and what ensues is a tale of manipulation, greed and hidden truths.

Director Doug Hughes has done an excellent job with this delightfully wicked story. The energy in this show is very high and Hughes pushes it to the limit. Unfortunately, he seems to falter in the very last scene. It is almost too subdued and gives one a feeling akin to riding a roller coaster that has taken you for a wild ride and when it finally climbs to the top of its greatest peak, it just stops dead before you are able to enjoy that final thrilling fall.

The Little Foxes
Elizabeth Ashley and
Nancy Robinette
This production stars the incredible Elizabeth Ashley. Known for her work on stage and screen, Ms. Ashley is a perfect Regina. It is almost as if Hellman wrote this role with her in mind. As Regina, Ms. Ashley drips with Southern charm, yet she conveys a fire that is white hot.

David Sabin, as Benjamin Hubbard, delivers an outstanding performance. He creates an interesting picture of a man who is one part Southern aristocrat and one part tireless deceiver. Jonathan Hadary's Oscar is very strong as well. His portrayal is a bit uncertain in the beginning but he builds steam as the show progresses and gives a fine performance. As his wife Birdie, Nancy Robinette is simply astounding. She has captured the essence of this tragic creature and is truly heartbreaking at times.

The design elements for this show are stellar. Hugh Landwehr has created a set that is both visually pleasing and appropriate to the time period. Jess Goldstein's costumes are especially good. It is obvious that this designer has studied the characters carefully. Each frock reveals a bit of the character's personality. For Regina, stunning gowns and fashionable daywear show off her ambition to its fullest. However, the direct opposite is true for Birdie. Instead, Goldstein has chosen to fit her with clothing that is slightly out of date, reminding us that Birdie longs for the life she had in a past era.

The Little Foxes is full of scheming and fun. However, if you get past the tricks and the lies, you can also see a message there. It is a message that is still relevant today and this production communicates it extremely well. Whether it is a message you are looking for or a delicious tale of deception, The Little Foxes is not to be missed.

The Shakespeare Theatre
The Little Foxes
June 4th - July 28th
By Lillian Hellman
Directed by Doug Hughes
450 7th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004-2207
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or www.shakespearedc.org

Cast List

Addie: Jewell Robinson
Cal: Joseph Lane
Birdie Hubbard: Nancy Robinette
Oscar Hubbard: Jonathan Hadary
Leo Hubbard: Matthew Schneck
Regina Giddens: Elizabeth Ashley
William Marshall: Ted Pejovich
Benjamin Hubbard: David Sabin
Alexandra Giddens: Nicole Lowrence
Horace Giddens: Keir Dullea


Photo: Carol Rosegg


-- Tracy Lyon


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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