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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "The Little Foxes" at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "The Little Foxes" at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

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320 West 46th Street
New York, NY 10036
32 West 37th Street
New York, NY 10018
77 Purchase Street
Rye, NY 10580

Manhattan Theatre Club
Lynn Meadow, Artistic Director
Barry Grove, Exec. Producer

Lillian Hellman’s
The Little Foxes
(The Little Foxes Web Page)

By Lillian Hellman
Directed by Daniel Sullivan

Laura Linney, Cynthia Nixon
Darren Goldstein, Michael McKean, Richard Thomas
David Alford, Michael Benz, Francesca Carpanini
Caroline Stefanie Clay, Charles Turner

At the
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th Street

Scenic Design: Scott Pask
Costume Design: Jane Greenwood
Lighting Design: Justin Townsend
Sound Design: Fitz Patton
Hair & Wig Design: Tom Watson
Make-Up Design: Tommy Kurzman
Fight Director: Thomas Schall
Dialect Coach: Deborah Hecht
Production Stage Manager: Roy Harris
Casting: Caparelliotis Casting
General Manager: Florie Seery
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Director of Artistic Operations: Amy Gilkes Loe
Director of Marketing: Debra Waxman-Pilla
Director of Casting: Nancy Piccione
Director of Play Development: Elizabeth Rothman
Director of Development: Lynne Randall
Director of Production: Joshua Helman
Line Producer: Nicki Hunter

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 22, 2017 Matinee and Eve

What a privilege to see back to back matinee and evening performances today of Lillian Hellman’s iconic family drama, The Little Foxes. The back story of critic invitations to two performances is that the leads, Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney, switch roles on alternate show times, so I saw Ms. Nixon and Ms. Linney as both Regina Giddens and Birdie Hubbard. Their respective husbands, brothers, son, and daughter remained in the same role, so the relationship interactions had variations as well. In the spring of 1900, in a small town in the South, in the Giddens’ living room, formerly the Hubbard house, a family sheds tears, draws blood, steals money, commits wife abuse, cries, drinks, drinks more, and even plots a marriage of convenience for their only children, who are cousins. Not only has each member of the family seen, or at least dreamed of, better days, but the house has, as well, because ceiling paint is peeling, tapestries are dingy, support columns are fading, and lampshades need cleaning. The two hired servants still cook and polish silver, while joking and flirting, but they serve, early on, as a quasi-Greek chorus, quietly hinting at imminent implosions.

The lady of this house is Regina Giddens (both Ms. Linney and Ms. Nixon, alternating), the stately, aggressive, clawing, and conniving wife of Horace Giddens (Richard Thomas), who is a banker, and, for most of the play, is away, recuperating at Johns Hopkins Hospital for cardiac problems. Regina’s brother, Oscar Hubbard (Darren Goldstein), is the brutish husband of Birdie Hubbard (both Ms. Linney and Ms. Nixon, alternating). Birdie day drinks and night drinks to hide her mental and physical pain, as her husband is relentlessly abusive. Regina and Oscar’s other sibling is Ben Hubbard (Michael McKean), an elder decision-maker of sorts, and his verbal jousting with Regina is something to behold. Birdie and Oscar Hubbard’s son, Leo (Michael Benz), isn’t the brightest lightbulb in this living room, and he works at uncle Horace’s bank. Regina and Horace Giddens’ daughter, Alexandra (Francesca Carpanini), is perhaps the wisest and strongest in this brood, and she’s definitely her father’s daughter, coming to terms with her seething, exploitive mother. Addie (Caroline Stefanie Clay) and Cal (Charles Turner) are the Giddens’ servants, also solidly in tune with the household dysfunction. The one outsider, Mr. Marshall (David Alford), is the pivotal focus of the characters’ dilemma.

Mr. Marshall makes a deal with Ben and Oscar to build a cotton mill in the town, next to the family’s struggling cotton plantation. But, they all need Horace to provide the financial backing. Regina forces Horace home from the hospital to sign papers, against his will. She engineers not only Horace’s downfall (literally), but also a coup against both brothers, in spite of 1900 American law that legally prevented women from financial and property inheritance or ownership, extrapolating from the play’s dialogue. Crimes are committed, and the blundering Leo and defiant Alexandra are both willingly manipulated, although Alexandra rises above the fray in the finale. I found Ms. Linney the strongest Regina, sang-froid, a spine of steel, a formidable, family vulture. As Birdie she was wounded, selfless, and dead drunk. I found Ms. Nixon the strongest Birdie, obsequious yet resilient, smart but struggling, and a drinker, but with wits. Mr. Thomas was astounding throughout as Horace, a husband without a wife in his bed, a man with a literally broken heart and not a friend. Ms. Carpanini was impressive as Alexandra, loyal but late in standing up for her convalescing father. Mr. McKean played Ben with humor and savoir faire. His wiliness could not stand up to Regina’s. Mr. Goldstein, as Oscar, was repellant, a sign his acting was above par. He was a husband from hell. Mr. Benz, as Leo, was almost as repellant as his father.

Daniel Sullivan directed masterfully, even dressing the two Reginas and Birdies slightly differently, maximizing their figures and personas. He arranged the family get-togethers to mentally zoom in on private conversations and monologues, like Birdie’s late in the play. He poignantly showcased her eternal angst and loneliness, just as he showcased Regina’s proud sense of superiority and keen survival instincts. Scott Pask’s living room transported the imagination to retro, elegant entertainment and social soirees. Jane Greenwood’s costumes were stunning and detailed, with hats and bustles and satin. Tom Watson’s hair styling and wigs were superbly suited to the period and plot. Sound and lighting provided clarity and spotlights. Kudos to Manhattan Theatre Club for this memorable and meaningful theatrical experience.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at