BWW Reviews: Florida Rep Surveys Southern Sibling Squabbles in THE LITTLE FOXES
Two brothers. One sister. A fortune waiting for them. A family divided against itself. Southern gentlemen. Negro maids in smart white uniforms. Grits. Elderberry wine. Beautiful clothes. Beautiful people. Terrible deeds. Florida Rep explores all this in fascinating "The Little Foxes."
The Lillian Hellman play dissects machinations of the Hubbard family. The year is 1900; amoral, ambitious brothers Ben and Oscar want to build a cotton mill - and reap the profits that have been going to the Yankees. Manipulative sister Regina holds power (or so she thinks) over husband Horace's fortune - which her brothers need. What will she sacrifice for a larger share of the profits?
The title comes from an Old Testament verse "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes." Taken as a metaphor, the Hubbard family would be the foxes poisoning both the town and individual characters with their greed.
The show's first act, set in Ray Recht's genteel, cream and patterned Southern parlor, features a whiplash of conversations that set the show in motion. Characters flirt, fight, drink and do business. I wish more had been done with this segment, using the conversational battles, dalliances and barbs (spoken and unspoken) to create more of a dramatic pulse.
Hellman's script provides a sharp commentary on family squabbles and internecine sibling warfare. Verbal confrontations rise out of the show like honeysuckle blossoms opening in the gloaming; these are the play's best moments. For several spellbinding stretches, audiences can get lost in watching the Hubbard family tear at each other like a pack of wild dogs - or, if you wish, the titular "little foxes" of the title.
Veteran Sara Morsey owns most of these scenes. Her vicious Regina (the name is no accident) seems less a stately Southern queen than a cobra. Morsey retains one of the play's only effective accents, which she uses to good effect.
What Morsey does so well is to elevate her moments with a sidewise glance, a cutting tone of voice or a gesture. She slices into Peter Thomasson's Ben and Mark Chambers' Oscar like a plow going through tilled earth. Carrie Lund delivers a stellar performance as tortured alcoholic Birdie. The second half opens a fiercely brave turn from Lund as she goes from gay party girl to sobbing, crumpled drunk.
Recht's gorgeous set has out-size doors and windows, but just the frames of walls and ceiling moulding. Roberta Malcolm's gorgeous costumes capture the elegance of the aughts in the refined moonlight and magnolias atmosphere of the play.
Chris Silk is the arts writer and theatre critic for the Naples Daily News. To read the longer version of this review, visit: http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2013/jan/07/review-florida-rep-the-little-foxes-tickets/.
Photo Credit: Nick Adams Photography