Saturday, May 30, 2009

review - The Little Foxes

Julia Duffy (bottom) as Aunt Birdie and Kelly McGillis (top) as Regina Giddens

The Little Foxes
by Lillian Hellman
directed by Damaso Rodriguez
Pasadena Playhouse
through June 28

"The rich do not need to be subtle" claims Ben Hubbard (Steve Vinovich) in Lillian Hellman's magnificently written The Little Foxes now receiving a stunning production on the Pasadena Playhouse mainstage. Handsomely mounted by Damaso Rodriguez and boasting a terribly sturdy ensemble, Hellman's classic play about greed proves timeless and universal.

The Hubbards know how to get and use money to their advantage, and most times quite ruthlessly. "It's every man's duty to think of himself." This is a corporate-minded family long before the word corporate came into fashion. Of course at the core is a strong-willed woman, Regina Hubbard Giddens (Kelly McGillis) , the sister whose loveless marriage to invalid Horace Giddens (Geoff Pierson) would have ended years earlier had it not been for daughter Alexandra (Rachel Sondag) and Horace's additional wealth. Regina, like her brothers Ben and Oscar (Marc Singer, particularly outstanding), always wants more of the pie.

McGillis' take on Regina, however, is uniquely different from past interpretations. She does not, as in the film, pull a star-driven melodramatic turn like Bette Davis, bent on hellfire and destruction, but makes the woman more three-dimensional. When Horace crawls up the stairs to get his pills, McGillis turns face forward almost in tears and holds on to the sofa for support, as if there is a part of Regina that is not quite sure she wants to let Horace die, or just a fragment that is asking God's forgiveness for her bold action. A welcome change in perspective from most Reginas I have seen. Yes, the woman wants to control, but, as in all humans, there exists some vulnerability, and McGillis allows us to witness that side of her. Brava!

Julia Duffy as Aunt Birdie is a marvel. Birdie's complete insecurity and unhappiness are on display as soon as Duffy hits the stage and begins speaking. Her second act drunken speech is heartbreaking, but never overdone. Singer, Vinovich and Pierson are all strong. Shawn Lee as Leo is just right in his nerdiness bordering on stupidity; Sondag is supportive as daughter Xan and stands tall in her final faceoff with Regina. Yvette Cason (Addie) and Cleavant Derricks ( Cal) are both sweet, funny and touching as the devoted servants, and Tom Schmid makes outsider William Marshall a true gentleman.

Gary Wissman's elegant & open scenic design, Dan Jenkin's slightly dreamlike lighting and Mary Vogt's costuming, although period: 1900, all help to give the play its timelessness and universality. No star turns in this production; it is strictly an ensemble effort and a cohesive and valiant one at that, thanks to the actors and Rodriguez' steady focus on Hellman's intent.

5 out of 5 stars


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