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The Little Foxes Brings Lillian Hellman Festival to Arena Stage

Jordan Wright
October 1, 2016
Special to The Alexandria Times

(L to R) Megan Graves as Alexandra Giddens and Kim James Bey as Addie in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, running September 23–October 30, 2016. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

(L to R) Megan Graves as Alexandra Giddens and Kim James Bey as Addie in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes . Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

Artistic Director Molly Smith kicked off the theatre’s Lillian Hellman Festival, with one of the playwright’s better-known plays, The Little Foxes. Hellman, one of America’s greatest women writers, was an iconoclast whose career spanned six decades. Branded a Communist during the McCarthy era and blacklisted in Hollywood, she nevertheless continued her groundbreaking work for the stage. With this play she exposed the dark underbelly of the South during the turn of the 20th century, weaving together themes of racism and internecine family rivalry. The drama is said to be based on her great uncles and aunt.

(L to R) Gregory Linington as Oscar Hubbard, Edward Gero as Benjamin Hubbard and Stanton Nash as Leo Hubbard in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, running September 23–October 30, 2016. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

(L to R) Gregory Linington as Oscar Hubbard, Edward Gero as Benjamin Hubbard and Stanton Nash as Leo Hubbard in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes at Arena Stage. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

It portrays the Hubbards, a family whose successes and failures are umbilically linked by greed and jealousy. The brothers, Benjamin (Edward Gero) and Oscar (Gregory Linington), run the family business with young Leo (Stanton Nash). In an effort to shore up their failing cotton plantation, they strike a deal with a Northern businessman, William Marshall (James Whalan) to modernize their operation. But their sister, Regina Hubbard Giddens, a woman of considerable connivance (played by the incomparable Marg Helgenberger), is determined to get a cut of the deal.

Regina is married to the much older and wheelchair-bound Horace (Jack Willis), a man of considerable fortune. However, as primogeniture was the custom of the period, and women did not inherit estates, Regina envisions a far more glamorous future for herself when Horace passes.

 (L to R) Edward Gero as Benjamin Hubbard, Gregory Linington as Oscar Hubbard, Isabel Keating as Birdie Hubbard and Marg Helgenberger as Regina Giddens in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, running September 23–October 30, 2016. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

(L to R) Edward Gero as Benjamin Hubbard, Gregory Linington as Oscar Hubbard, Isabel Keating as Birdie Hubbard and Marg Helgenberger as Regina Giddens in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes at Arena Stage. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

Isabel Keating plays Oscar’s wife Birdie, whose vast plantation, Lyonette, the Hubbards now have in their control. In other words, the conniving Oscar has married her for her lands and she’s been taken to the cleaners. Her son Leo is equally as unscrupulous – finding a way to steal the funds necessary to close the deal without Horace’s approval.

Fortified by a decanter of elderberry wine, Keating’s Birdie affords us the most amusing, and bittersweet, highlight of the drama. Add to that fine performances from Kim James Bey as Addie and David Emerson Toney as Cal.

Director Kyle Donnelly’s staging lends an ominous air to the deceit and collusion between Oscar, Leo and Ben, and later Regina. It’s enough to make your hair stand on end.

Set Designer Mikiko Suzuki Macadams presents us with an opulent Victorian living room with raised dining room and a stark treeless backdrop and Jess Goldstein gives us period costumes to match.

Warning: Do not jump out of your seat, as I did, when you hear the “N” word which occurs several times during the course of the play.

Through October 30th at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St., SE, Washington, DC 20024. For information and tickets for the Lillian Hellman Festival visit www.arenastage.org/hellman-festival or call 202 488-3300.

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