Review: ‘The Little Foxes’ at Samuel J. Friedman Theatre – Manhattan Theatre Club

By Jonathan Spira on 8 May 2017
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When Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes” opened on Broadway in 1939, it starred Tallulah Bankhead as Regina Hubbard Giddens, a long-suffering and equally conniving woman who would stop at nothing to achieve her goals, which included a far more glamorous life in Chicago.

But who could possibly fill Bankhead’s shoes today? It turns out it takes two actresses to play the charming and manipulative Regina, three-time Academy Award and Tony Award nominee Laura Linney and Tony and Emmy Award winner Cynthia Nixon, who alternate between that role and Birdie, Regina’s long-suffering alcoholic sister-in-law.

“Foxes,” a play in three acts, is set in a small town in Alabama at the turn of the last century. We first meet the Hubbards as well as the help when they host a dinner party for William Marshall (David Alford), a Yankee industrialist with whom Regina’s brothers, Ben (Michael McKean) and Oscar (Darren Goldstein) wish to invest.

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Ben and Oscar, it turns out, inherited their father’s fortune but Regina did not. Meanwhile, her greed and ambition turned her husband, Horace Giddens (played with a twinkle in his eye by Richard Thomas) into a sick man who has happily spent the past five months away from her in John Hopkins Hospital up north.

The play’s title is derived from a verse in the Song of Songs, “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines,” and it soon becomes clear who are the foxes and who are the vines. Ben’s rather sanguine comment about how families such as the Hubbards “will own this country some day” results in considerable nervous laughter from the audience.

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