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BWW Review: THE LITTLE FOXES at Arena Stage

Lillian Hellman's THE LITTLE FOXES comes to Arena Stage at an uncannily resonant time. Amidst the opulent Victorian décor and genteel Southern manners there is, at its dark heart, a family that will do anything to maintain its status and a small town that will suffer for it. Now, more than ever, this show with its immensely talented cast needs to be seen.

The play commences at the end of a business deal between the three Hubbard siblings and Chicago businessman William Marshall (James Whalen). The deal will bring a new cotton mill in exchange for cheap labor, and each of the three siblings stands to make millions from his or her share of the family business.

Oldest brother Benjamin (Edward Gero) wields the imaginary gavel on decisions and hides his sinister apathy behind poetic speeches and fostered dignity. Middle sibling Oscar (Gregory Linington) feeds off of power, whether it comes from hunting or belittling his advantageous wife Birdie (the pitch perfect and heartbreaking Isabel Keating). He aims to get both himself and his useless, all-talk son Leo (Stanton Nash) ahead.

But the real power lies with Regina (Marg Helgenberger), whose lack of inheritance from her father has made her desperate for what she feels she deserves. Regina's ailing husband Horace (Jack Willis) must provide the third share to finalize the deal, and she enjoys nothing more than an ace up her gilded sleeve.

Hellman's script incorporates a number of moving pieces with balance and brevity. While the show runs at about two hours and 30 minutes, each line cuts forward and makes its mark, weaving the themes together. Regina's daughter Alexandra (Megan Graves) struggles with seeing her future and her family's suffocating presence. Horace fights his miserable marriage with the hope that he can somehow balance out the sins.

And, at the quiet, yielding center, the household staff Addie (KIM JAMES BEY) and Cal (DAVID EMERSON TONEY) see everything that is wrong, both in their house and in the surrounding town that the Hubbards have blatantly deprived. While these characters get some of the best comedic lines, it is also painfully apparent on their faces what they think as they continue their duties.

Set Designer Mikiko Suzuki MacAdams blends a stylish Victorian home with dark shadows of nature behind it. The trees seem to creep in more and more throughout the show, and the effect lands. Costume Designer Jess Goldstein provides stunningly detailed dresses and suits that fit perfectly with the characters. Ryan Rumery has an interesting underlying soundtrack, but the low tones occasionally overpower more than they should.

As Alexandra discovers from the adults around her, there can be nothing worse than apathy when the right thing can be done instead. Within this production the themes of racism, income disparity, abuse and indifference stood out as a series of warnings. As the show ended, all I could do was hope that we in the the current day learn to stop the trend of simply watching and doing nothing whatsoever to help.

THE LITTLE FOXES runs at Arena Stage through October 30th. For more information, visit the production page. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

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From This Author Heather Nadolny

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