By Tulis McCall
The title The Little Foxes comes from the Song Of Solomon 2:15. In the middle of all of that
My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away…The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land
Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
Translation: I love you to pieces, but if you don’t clobber the friggin’ foxes we will have no grapes, raisins or wine. The first two I can live without. The last is a requirement. Seriously I do love you – with conditions. You don’t deliver? I throw you under the bus.
I wish I had known this before I saw this delicious production – but in retrospect it fits like a glove. Lillian Hellman knows from family manipulation hidden behind a smile. Back stabbing hidden behind sincerity.
We are in nowhere Alabama 1900, and the Hubbard family — by that I mean Regina Gibbons (Laura Linney at this performance) and her brothers Ben Hubbard (Michael McKean) and Oscar Hubbard (Darren Goldstein) – are entertaining a Yankee, Mr. Marshall (David Alford). Mr. Marshall wants to build a cotton mill and this family is interested. The cotton belonged to Oscar’s wife Birdie (Cynthia Nixon) and her family. Oscar wanted the cotton so he married it. Mr. Marshall is looking for a 30% investment from the family. The men are in, but Regina, lacking any money of her own, must get it from her husband Horace (Richard Thomas) who is busy ailing up at John’s Hopkins In Baltimore. Regina sends her Pollyanna of a daughter Alexandra (Francesca Carpanini) to fetch him. She knows he would not come home for her own sake.
Once home, Horace wastes little time in small talk. He looks around at his welcoming committee and remarks that nothing has changed. And it has not. Except for the fact that Horace is way ahead of all of them in the duplicitous department. He trusts no one, with the exception of his daughter and to a lesser extent his servants, and with good reason. Regina and her brothers are knitting scarves that name each other traitors. Birdie is dying her own quiet death from lack of love and affection. She is sliding into oblivion because that seems like a better choice than where she is at present.
The intrigue is presented like so many layers of a French pastry. Directed with style and precision by Daniel Sullivan this is a crisp evening of deceit and calculation. Everyone is up to something, and you don’t want to take your eyes off any of them for a second. Each character – and each very fine actor – is on a trajectory of their own making. The result is an ensemble that is having a devilishly good time. Cocooned by the extraordinary work of the design team Scott Pask (Sets), Jane Greenwood (Costumes) and Tom Watson (Hair and Wig Design) these characters float in a mirage of propriety that is truly a pool of quicksand.
Add to this the fact that Linney and Nixon are trading places as Regina and Birdie – why? who cares? – and you have more than a few reasons to catch this show.
THE LITTLE FOXES
Credits Written by Lillian Hellman; Directed by Daniel Sullivan
Cast Cynthia Nixon, Laura Linney, Darren Goldstein, Michael McKean, Richard Thomas, David Alford, Michael Benz, Francesca Carpanini, Caroline Stefanie Clay and Charles Turner
Sets by Scott Pask , Costumes by Jane Greenwood and Hair and Wig Design by Tom Watson
For more information on MTC, please visit www.ManhattanTheatreClub.com. TICKETING INFORMATION Tickets are available at Telecharge.com, by calling 212-239-6200, or by visiting The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre Box Office at 261 West 47th Street. Ticket prices are $70-$150. New and renewing subscribers can still join the 2016-2017 season and include Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes by calling The MTC Clubline at 212-399-3050. PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE – For calendar format of the alternating roles’ performances, please visit: http://littlefoxesbroadway.com/tickets/