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Review Roundup: Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney Swap Roles in THE LITTLE FOXES- All the Reviews!

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Manhattan Theatre Club's new Broadway production of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes, starring Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon, opens tonight at MTC's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (261 West 47th Street).

Two extraordinary actresses return to Manhattan Theatre Club in a vibrant new production of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes. In a thrilling coup, MTC will present three-time Tony Award nominee Laura Linney (Time Stands Still, Sight Unseen) and Tony winner Cynthia Nixon (Rabbit Hole, Wit), who will alternate playing the roles of Regina and Birdie, appearing opposite each other at each performance.

Linney and Nixon are joined by Darren Goldstein (The Madrid at MTC, "The Affair"), Michael McKean (All The Way, "Better Call Saul"), Richard Thomas (An Enemy of the People at MTC, "The Americans"), David Alford (Broadway debut, "Nashville"), Michael Benz (The Importance of Being Earnest in the West End, "Downton Abbey"),Francesca Carpanini (Dead Poets Society at CSC, The Tempest), Caroline Stefanie Clay (Doubt, The Royal Family at MTC), and Charles Turner (The Trip to Bountiful, Orphans Home Cycle).Let's see what the critics had to say!


Alexis Soloski, The New York Times: The play doesn't shift radically from one cast list to the next to the next. Mr. Sullivan's confident production doesn't deny melodrama, but it prefers psychological and social detail over Southern gothic fripperies. (Scott Pask's fraying, elegant set and Jane Greenwood's shrewd costumes, with ruffles for Birdie and a sleeker silhouette for Regina, also reflect this emphasis.) It asks both actresses to make the roles more than villain and victim, which the play allows. You might wish that Hellman had written the faithful retainer parts with greater breadth, but Charles Turner and particularly Caroline Stefanie Clay play them with nuance.

David Cote. Time Out New York: Daniel Sullivan directs Hellman's Alabama tale with a crisp vigor that smooths over its melodramatic bumps. The prime mover is Regina, who plots with brothers Ben and Oscar (malevolently perfect Michael McKean and Darren Goldstein) to close a deal on a cotton mill in order to make them all filthy rich. The cast is uniformly strong, and outstanding work comes from the leading ladies. Linney is fire and ice: regal yet ready to spit venom. And Nixon, in the configuration I saw, is delicately touching as the meek, damaged Birdie. The Little Foxes may not command as high a prospect in the pantheon of American drama as more poetic work by Tennessee Williams or Eugene O'Neill, but it's cunningly built and packs a punch; it's the August: Osage County of the interwar years.

Matt Windman, amNY: You can learn the dates that Linney and Nixon will be playing each role in advance. Linney and Nixon are better suited to playing Regina and Birdie, respectively, but the show is fine either way, and checking out both casting arrangements makes you appreciate their versatility. The fullest performance actually comes from Thomas as Regina's sick and wheelchair-bound husband, who switches off between gentility and heated fervor as he attempts to outsmart his wife. Meanwhile, McKean and Goldstein play it up as Regina's similarly aggressive and greedy brothers.

Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: The Manhattan Theatre Club production, staged with a rock solid hand by Daniel Sullivan at the Friedman Theatre, is flawless. Which is to say tastefully mean-spirited without any need to overemphasize what is emminently self-evident. Visually, it's sumptuous, with a realistic set by Scott Pask, lovely costumes by Jane Greenwood and clear, unobtrusive lighting by Justin Townsend.

Linda Winer, Newsday: The next time anyone challenges the need to have nonprofit Broadway houses alongside the commercial theaters, I'm going to shout out, "The Little Foxes." It's possible to imagine a profit-motivated producer deciding to stage Lillian Hellman's 1939 drama about a greedy Southern family these days if a megastar - recall Elizabeth Taylor in 1981 - wanted to claw her way through the carnivorous role of Regina Giddens, the Cruella of small-town 1900 society. But the nonprofit Manhattan Theatre Club has not merely dared to cast Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon - sublimely intelligent actors, but hardly summer tourist-bait - to play grasping, glamorous Regina and her mousy, quietly alcoholic sister-in-law Birdie Hubbard in the company's Broadway venue. To complicate matters deliciously, the two are alternating roles equally through the run.

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: Sullivan's old-school refinement as a director is exactly what's called for in this merciless tale of greed and cunning. The Little Foxes is not a play loaded with subtext that rewards stripped-down surgical re-examination, which would explain why it was among the less illuminating forays into 20th-century American drama for leading experimentalist Ivo van Hove. But served straight, with the right actors, it's a crackling good yarn. The closest thing to a radical touch here is having lead actresses Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon alternate in the roles of Regina Giddens, the hungriest of the Hubbards and ultimately the snakiest; and Birdie, her alcoholic sister-in-law and the one character legitimately descended from Southern aristocracy.

Robert Kahn, NBC New York: Both prove to be equally effective in either role - a sign of each actress' talent and the production's overall perfection. Regina's is the meatier part with the most stage time, storing through all three acts. Birdie's one truly memorable appearance occurs at the start of the third act, with a touching speech about how rarely she's experienced happiness. As they change, so do the supporting characters around them. Richard Thomas delivers a particularly physical performance as Horace, who sees the world with the clarity of a dying man. His moves to punish Regina's ambition read more vengeful with Linney, and more controlling with Nixon.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Linney's Regina is pure Machiavellian cunning, a sly fox waiting for those dumb rabbits to hop into her den. For those family battles, Greenwood has designed her several fashionable sets of armor, one a severely tailored suit and underblouse in a deep, gorgeous shade of teal. Properly suited up, she's a formidable opponent who fights to the death - quite literally in her harrowing scenes with husband Horace (superbly played by Thomas), whom she drags home from the hospital to sign away his money. Linney is ferocious when Regina is thwarted, but she never gives up. She flashes her dimples, she flirts, she bullies, she teases, she commands, she seethes with rage. And when all else fails, she looks you in the eye and says: "I hope you die." I don't know about you, but I give up.

Isabella Biedenharn, Entertainment Weekly: An interesting thing is happening at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre: all-stars Laura Linney (The Big C) and Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City) are alternating the roles of headstrong, conniving Regina Giddens and meek, abused Birdie Hubbard in the Manhattan Theater Club's revival of Lillian Hellman's 1939 play The Little Foxes. In theory, it's a fascinating experiment-especially for theatergoers who have the resources to see both versions of the show, as I was able to. But in practice, one pairing has just a bit more magic in it than the other.

Mark Shenton, The Stage: Nixon, though best known as Miranda in Sex and the City, has a rich stage pedigree and won a Tony in 2006. She invests Regina with a ferocious sense of ambition and heartlessness. She wins a business victory over her brothers but loses much more when she allows her husband to die and drives away her only daughter. Linney, in this iteration, has a much smaller role as the fretful Birdie, but she also reveals her stunning chameleonic abilities, downplaying her natural radiance. Daniel Sullivan's finely calibrated production, played out on Scott Pask's handsome drawing room set, isn't just a vehicle for these two fine performances, it's also a glorious ensemble production that crackles with tension and there are terrific contributions from Richard Thomas as Regina's husband and Michael McKean and Darren Goldstein as her two brothers.

Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: If you have the money and time, Broadway is hosting a fascinating performative parlor game. Linney and Nixon-the latter most famous for playing Miranda in Sex and The City-are playing, in different performances, both Regina Hubbard Giddens and Birdie Hubbard, the sisters-in-law and lead characters in Lillian Hellman's 1939 play (probably her most famous, and supposedly her favorite play), now a handsomely mounted Manhattan Theatre Club revival.

Charles Isherwood, Broadway News: The director Daniel Sullivan's succulent new Broadway revival of the play, a Manhattan Theatre Club production at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, cannot erase its tints of both moralizing and melodrama. But it proves once again that Hellman's 1939 drama is also redoubtably enduring entertainment, a theatrically effective indictment of human greed and its destructive power.

Jesse Green, Vulture: What remains powerfully effective, and what Sullivan's handsome production gets right, is Hellman's dissection of (and shocking prescience about) the way a systemic lack of power can turn into manipulative fury. Hellman had seen it before in the toxic capitalism that led to the Depression and did not imagine it would disappear anytime soon from the human repertoire of injustice. After all, she took her title - courtesy of Dorothy Parker - from the Song of Solomon's image of little foxes that "spoil the vines" and the tender grapes thereon.

Peter Marks, Washington Post: For both of these actresses, that would be the suppleness of Regina's mind. Her survivor's gift for staying one diabolical step ahead of the men - who would cheat her in a lucrative deal over a cotton mill - makes her more than a cardboard evildoer. That impression is encouraged in the performances of the men, who also include Oscar and Birdie's sniveling son, Leo (Michael Benz, wearing entitlement like a fitted shirt). McKean's Ben is a subtle demon, Goldstein's Oscar a more transparently brutish one. Thomas, as the mortally ill family truthteller, contributes a grand turn as the requisite voice of rectitude.

Christopher Kelly, NJ.com: For the most part, Linney resists the high-camp dudgeon that Davis brought to the movie, opting for a more psychologically grounded Regina. But while that's a laudable choice, it also drains the proceedings of some potential electricity -- a matter compounded by Sullivan's steady, but restrained pacing. This "Little Foxes," with its predictably handsome set and costume design (by Scott Pask and Jane Greenwood, respectively) evoking a sense of faded Southern glory, never quite gets the pulse racing.

Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: Under Daniel Sullivan's sure-handed direction, the show satisfies no matter who's playing Regina - more or less. The production's good-looking - costumes, lighting and the set, which underscores this prickly family. Notice there's no comfy couch that invites getting close, just chairs and a chaise. Supporting actors more than ably step up, including Richard Thomas as Regina's ill husband, Michael McKean and Darren Goldstein as her greedy brothers, Francesca Carpanini as her dutiful daughter, and Michael Benz as her creepy nephew.

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