"Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes."
Lillian Hellman's 1939 play, THE LITTLE FOXES, may take it's title from the Song of Solomon. The playwright's politics and strong opinions certainly inform the subtext of this play currently gracing the beautiful Victorian set by John Iacovelli at Antaeus Theatre Company in Glendale.
Hellman's being called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and her partnership with Dashiell Hammett, all speak to the underlying 'stuff' that makes a powerful play like this one possibly suspect to the powers that be.
Director Cameron Watson's cast presents well Hellman's undercurrent of greed embodied in Regina (rail thin Debroah Puette) the queen? whose lust for wealth and position in life is unquenchable. Terri A. Lewis's gorgeous costumes and an air of presentation unfolds in three acts with the lines of conflict clearly drawn. It's the early 1900s. The southern 'aristocracy' and the abuse of power unfolds with the Hubbards: Benjamin and Oscar (respectively Mike McShane and Rob Nagle) brothers to Regina who has 'married well' to Horace Giddens (John DeMita) whose wealth is important to a huge business deal in the works. Watson has honed Hellman's characters to a razor's edge that is predictable from the first scene.
The exuberance of Birdie (Joycelyn Towne), Ben's wife and his bullying her into submission, along with the treatment of the negro maid, Addie and handyman, Cal (Judy Louise Johnson and William L. Warren) sets the stage for the manipulation of wealth at the expense of Regina's ailing husband, Horace.
The Song of Solomon reference plays out as the greedy principals scheme to 'make millons' with the slyest fox of all, Regina, finding a way to increase her own financial and social position.
As Alexandra, Horace and Regina's young daughter, Kristin Couture, may be paired with the bumbling, Leo (Calvin Picou), who through misdeeds has procured $88,000.00 in negotiable bonds to move forward the deal his father and uncle hope to close. ($88K would be the equivalent of over $2.6 Million in today's money!) With this kind of cash in play the stakes are extraordinary, not only in wealth, but in the moral turpitude engaged to take advantage of Horace's wealth.
|Judy Louise Johnson, Kristin Couture
Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography
The bully tone of the brothers and the succinct observations by the help are Hellman's commentary on what unfettered ambition and greed can do, not only to a family, but in essence to a nation or the world. This is summed up by Addie's observation,
“There are people who eat the earth and eat all the people on it like in the Bible with the locusts. Then, there are the people who stand around and watch them eat it.”
This moment defines the play in a nutshell. The Hubbards are a greedy lot with Regina the most loathsome of all. Flirting shamelessly with entrepreneur William Marshall (Timothy Adam Venable), she only wants more... and like the 'little foxes' in the Bible, is party to stooping to what is tantamount to murder to get more than her fair share out of life.
Antaeus dedication to high quality productions of classic as well as classical theatre is at its pinnacle in this presentation. Direction, acting and tech meld to present a play worthy of high praise.
THE LITTLE FOXES
by Lillian Hellman
Directed by Cameron Watson
Antaeus Theatre Company
Kiki and David Kindler Performing Arts Center
Glendale, California 9120
Thursday through Monday
Closes December 10, 2018
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