Review by Tulis McCall
April 21, 2017
The title The Little Foxes comes from the Song Of Solomon 2:15. In the middle of all of that
My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away…The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land
Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
Translation: I love you to pieces, but if you don’t clobber the friggin’ foxes we will have no grapes, raisins or wine. The first two I can live without. The last is a requirement. Seriously I do love you – with conditions. You don’t deliver? I throw you under the bus.
I wish I had known this before I saw this delicious production – but in retrospect it fits like a glove. Lillian Hellman knows family manipulation hidden behind a smile. Back stabbing hidden behind sincerity.
We are in nowhere Alabama 1900, and the Hubbard family — by that I mean Regina Gibbons (Laura Linney at this performance) and her brothers Ben Hubbard (Michael McKean) and Oscar Hubbard (Darren Goldstein) – are entertaining a Yankee, Mr. Marshall (David Alford). Mr. Marshall wants to build a cotton mill and this family is interested. The cotton belonged to Oscar’s wife Birdie (Cynthia Nixon) and her family. Oscar wanted the cotton so he married it. Mr. Marshall is looking for a 30% investment from the family. The men are in, but Regina, lacking any money of her own, must get it from her husband Horace (Richard Thomas) who is busy ailing up at John’s Hopkins In Baltimore. Regina sends her Pollyanna of a daughter Alexandra (Francesca Carpanini) to fetch him. She knows he would not come home for her own sake.
Once home, Horace wastes little time in small talk. He looks around at his welcoming committee and remarks that nothing has changed. And it has not. Except for the fact that Horace is way ahead of all of them in the duplicitous department. He trusts no one, with the exception of his daughter and to a lesser extent his servants, and with good reason. Regina and her brothers are knitting scarves that name each other traitors. Birdie is dying her own quiet death from lack of love and affection. She is sliding into oblivion because that seems like a better choice than where she is at present.
The intrigue is presented like so many layers of a French pastry. Directed with style and precision by Daniel Sullivan, this is a crisp evening of deceit and calculation. Everyone is up to something, and you don’t want to take your eyes off any of them for a second. Each character – and each very fine actor – is on a trajectory of their own making. The result is an ensemble that is having a devilishly good time. Cocooned by the extraordinary work of the design team Scott Pask (Sets), Jane Greenwood (Costumes) and Tom Watson (Hair and Wig Design), these characters float in a mirage of propriety that is truly a pool of quicksand.
Add to this the fact that Linney and Nixon are trading places as Regina and Birdie – Why? Who cares? – and you have more than a few reasons to catch this show.
"In “The Little Foxes,” Manhattan Theater Club’s nimble, exhilarating revival of Lillian Hellman’s 1939 drama, Regina coerces, deceives, manipulates and maybe even murders. How graceful she is, how charming. And how carnivorous."
Alexis Soloski for New York Times
"Under Daniel Sullivan’s sure-handed direction, the show satisfies no matter who’s playing Regina — more or less."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"This is such a richly satisfying revival, I’m going back for seconds."
David Cote for Time Out New York
"This is a production as classy as it is smart, shining a spotlight on a playwright who, unlike such contemporaries as Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, is too seldom revived on Broadway."
David Rooney for Hollywood Reporter
"It wasn’t trick casting on the part of director Daniel Sullivan to have Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon alternate lead roles in “The Little Foxes,” Lillian Hellman’s brilliant, blistering indictment of a rapacious southern family in post-Civil War America. Each actress, in her own way, finds drama in the life-and-death conflict between the declining aristocracy and the rise of the decadent merchant classes at the turn of the 20th century."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...