Photo Flash: Palm Beach Dramaworks presents Lillian Hellman's THE LITTLE FOXES
Shortly after The Little Foxes opened on Broadway in 1939, Lillian Hellman summed up the meaning of her play in an interview in theNew York Herald Tribune . "I merely wanted, in essence, to say: 'Here I am representing for you the sort of person who ruins the world for us.'"
And so she created the avaricious Hubbard family, led by one of the most unrepentantly conniving, rapacious characters in the history of American drama, Regina Hubbard Giddens. The Little Foxes was a big hit when it premiered, and the play's reputation has actually grown over the years. Considered by many to be Hellman's masterpiece, this timely work about greed and the destruction it causes opens Palm Beach Dramaworks' eighteenth season on Friday, October 20 (8pm) at the Don & Ann Brown Theatre. Performances continue through November 12, with specially priced previews on October 18 and 19 (7:30pm).
Set in the South at the turn of the twentieth century, The Little Foxes is the story of a ruthless family who love nothing more than money - perhaps nothing other than money - and will do anything to get rich, irrespective of the human cost. A Chicago businessman offers to partner with them to build a cotton mill in their small town, a deal that will make all of them very wealthy. The Hubbard brothers, Benjamin and Oscar, are in, but Regina, with no rights as a woman in the old South, must get the money from her husband, Horace, a banker. Horace, who is terminally ill, wants no part of the deal, having had enough of a family that cheats, resorts to "dirty tricks," and makes its money off the back of cheap labor. But Regina will not be denied, and she plots not just to get her fair share, but to get more than her fair share, regardless of who gets hurt along the way.
Hellman's family on her mother's side was wealthy, and her relatives served as models for the Hubbards. The title of the play, which was suggested to her by the writer and wit Dorothy Parker, comes from the Bible's Song of Solomon: "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes." Hellman had planned for the play to be part of a trilogy. Another Part of the Forest , which takes place 20 years before The Little Foxes , opened on Broadway in 1946. But Hellman never got around to writing the third play.
PBD's production is directed by J. Barry Lewis and features Kathy McCafferty as Regina Giddens; Dennis Creaghan as Benjamin Hubbard; James Andreassi as Oscar Hubbard; Denise Cormieras Birdie Hubbard, Oscar's abused wife (PBD debut); Rob Donohoe as Horace Giddens; Taylor Anthony Miller as Leo Hubbard, Oscar and Birdie's son; Catilin Cohn as Alexandra Giddens, Regina and Horace's daughter; Avery Sommers as Addie, the Hubbards' maid and Alexandra's nanny; Patric Robinson as Cal, a house servant (PBD debut); and Frank Converse as William Marshall, the Chicago businessman. Scenic design is by Michael Amico , costume design is by Brian O'Keefe, lighting design is by Paul Black , and sound design is by Brad Pawlak .
The Little Foxes , directed by Herman Shumlin, opened on Broadway on February 15, 1939, and ran for 410 performances. Tallulah Bankhead earned raves for her portrayal of Regina. Bette Davis starred in the acclaimed 1941 film, directed by William Wyler, which featured five members of the original Broadway cast: Patricia Collinge as Birdie, Charles Dingle as Benjamin, Carl Benton Reid as Oscar, Dan Duryea as Leo, and John Marriott as Cal. Also in the film were Herbert Marshall as Horace and Teresa Wright as Alexandra. The play was revived on Broadway for the first time in 1967. That much-lauded production was directed by Mike Nichols, and starred Anne Bancroft as Regina. The cast also included Margaret Leighton, E.G. Marshall, George C. Scott, Maria Tucci, Richard A. Dysart, Austin Pendleton, and Beah Richards. Pendleton later directed a 1981 revival which starred Elizabeth Taylor and featured Maureen Stapleton as Birdie. Stockard Channing portrayed Regina in a 1997 production. In the most recent Broadway revival, earlier this year, Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon alternated in the roles or Regina and Birdie.
In addition, Marc Blitzstein wrote an opera based on the play.Regina opened on Broadway in 1949, and was not a success. In 1953, New York City Opera performed a revised version that was well-received. The opera has been staged around the country over the years, and has continued to undergo changes.
Lillian Hellman (1905-1984) was one of the most important playwrights of the twentieth century. Known as much for her commitment to left-wing and liberal causes as for her writing, her plays, including The Little Foxes and Another Part of the Forest (for which she also wrote the screenplays), frequently reflected her ideology. Her first play, The Children's Hour (1934), in which a student accuses two teachers of being lesbians, was about the power of a lie and slander and prejudice. Watch on the Rhine(1940) was written in response to the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a non-aggression agreement between Hitler and Stalin. The lesser-known The Searching Wind (1944) is a condemnation of the international politics that enabled Hitler's rise to power. Other major works include the book for the musicalCandide (1956) and the semi-autobiographical Toys in the Attic(1960). Hellman also had a long career in Hollywood, with more than 30 credits to her name. But she may be best known for a line that she wrote neither for stage nor screen. Prior to testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee, she wrote a letter to the chairman and asked him not to force her to name names. "I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions," she said. She stayed true to her word, and was blacklisted.
Palm Beach Dramaworks is a non-profit, professional theatre and is a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the South Florida Theatre League, Florida Professional Theatres Association, and the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County.
Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30PM, Friday and Saturday at 8PM (except Saturday, October 28, which starts at 7PM), and select Sundays at 7PM. Matinee performances are on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2PM. Post-performance discussions follow Wednesday matinee and Sunday evening performances. Individual tickets are $75, with specially priced preview tickets at $55 and Opening Night tickets at $90. Student tickets are available for $15, and Pay Your Age tickets are available for those 18-40. Tickets for educators are half price with proper ID (other restrictions apply). Group rates for 20 or more and discounted season subscriptions are also available.
The Don & Ann Brown Theatre is located in the heart of downtown West Palm Beach, at 201 Clematis Street. For ticket information contact the box office at (561) 514-4042, or visitwww.palmbeachdramaworks.org .
Credit: Samantha Mighdoll
Pictured: Avery Sommers, Patric Robinson