An orchestral score, written for this staging by Richard Woodbury, swells for a minute or two at the beginning and end of each act—highly dramatic crescendos that sound like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie or a 1940s screen melodrama. The music makes this stage show seem more cinematic. It’s a bit jarring at first, and yet it’s effective, heightening the sense that we’re watching a momentous human drama.
The acting alone would have accomplished that, however. Directed by Henry Wishcamper, this ensemble grabs the audience’s attention and doesn’t let go of it for a second during the play’s 2 1/2 hours.
Hellman’s story takes place in Alabama in 1900, where three siblings—driven by greed and ambition—are scheming to pull off a big business deal, financing a new cotton mill that will exploit local black workers with cheap wages. The one female member of the trio, headstrong Regina Gibbons (Shannan Cochran), is not about to let her brothers, gruff Oscar Hubbard (Steve Pickering) and cunning Benjamin Hubbard (Larry Yando), leave her out of the potential windfall. They aren’t likable—and neither is Oscar’s dimwitted cad of a son, Leo (Dan Waller)—but the actors play the roles with realism and fierce intensity.
The other people inside this grand Southern home (brought to life with a magnificent set by Todd Rosenthal) are more sympathetic. Oscar’s unloved wife, Birdie (Mary Beth Fisher), is desperate for a little attention. Regina’s ailing husband, Horace (John Judd), and their daughter, Zan (Rae Gray), take a stand for doing the right thing. Meanwhile, two African-American servants, Addie (Cherene Snow) and Cal (Dexter Zollicoffer), watch the drama unfold, powerless but observant.
Judd’s performance, as a fragile man struggling with a heart ailment but unafraid to speak his mind, is especially moving. He’s the conscience at the heart of this story. Like the best historical dramas, “The Little Foxes” portrays a time and place different from our own, but it still resonates with the questions we face in today’s world.
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