From the second one enters the Albert Theatre at The Goodman, and sees the wonderful Southern home of Regina Giddens (amazingly brought to life by Shannon Cochran), one has the feeling that they have entered a time machine. It is 1900 and we are in the South, in this magnificent mansion that is owned by the Giddens/Hubbard family. We are peering in on the family that keeps finding ways to have evil beat good in their lives. This is the classical “The Little Foxes”, Lillian Hellman’s American Drama that tackles the concept of greed changing a community, for the worse as it also can with the family that believes it can beat all odds, no matter what.
Directed by Henry Wishcamper with an all-star cast of Chicago “favorites” this revival in three acts is mesmerizing, powerful and will have one thinking about the story well after the curtain comes down. The Hubbard-Giddens clan is a fairly well to do and successful family. The period is pretty much during the revolution where the slaves on their property are now workers with some becoming house servants. While the “N” word is used, it is a sign of the times and never really becomes a bother during this 2 hour and 45 minute story (two intermissions).
At the start of the story, we meet this family as they are entertaining a Chicago businessman, William Marshall (Michael Canavan) who is about to go into business with the Hubbard family. They are in the cotton growing business and with Marshall as their partner, they will be able to build a mill and prosper even more than they already have. While they are not Aristocrats, they are very well situated. Regina’s brothers, Oscar (Steve Pickering) and Ben (deftly handled by Larry Yando) are seeking ways to build the partnership so that they will maintain the control over the Chicagoans. The money they need to come up with for the arrangement is to come mostly from their sister’s husband Horace (a superb job by the always reliable John Judd), a banker, who has been ill, and out of town.
These are selfish people, all only interested in their personal gains and the riches they can get from the sweat of others. The mill will offer employment to the recently freed slaves, but on their terms, allowing the Hubbards to once again be in the lead. Oscar has a son, Leo (Dan Waller), who is employed by his uncle in the bank, but is not very bright and has no real ambition, except just to live as his family has always done, in the lap of luxury. His father, wanting to see his son do well even is trying to have him wed his cousin Alexandra (a strong performance by Rae Gray, who many of us have watched grow up on the stages of our Chicago theaters) daughter of Horace and Regina. To finalize their deal, the Hubbard boys need their brother-in-law’s money, giving their sister, Regina a share of the pie.
Feeling this might not happen, they arrange to take some bonds he has, and have Leo “borrow” them for a brief time to complete the deal. Once the money starts pouring in, they can easily repay the dollars. What follows is a mind game between husband and wife (Regina and Horace) as they juggle who will win and who will lose. The story has some strong twists and turns involving all of these characters plus Birdie Hubbard, Oscar’s wife (the amazing Mary Beth Fisher) who as it turns out has some major drinking problems, but as we learn these arise from being beaten down by her husband. When her story is unveiled, we learn a great deal more about this ruthless family.
The other two characters in the story are the house servants, Cal (Dexter Zollicoffer) and Addie (Cherene Snow). Ms Snow’s character is one of great importance allowing us to see how Horace Giddens and his daughter were very close to what we might call model citizens. Seeing the mental cruelty, domestic abuse, racism that are depicted in this play dealing with society over 100 years ago is even more mind-boggling to see today as much of what we were unaware of in the past, is relevant in today’s world, as is the greed of the brothers Hubbard. In watching these actors bring these characters to life, in particular Yando, who can handle sleaze and greed with the best of them , one is drawn to the fact that people of today are no different than those that Hellman brought to her play.
This is a dynamic production with each and every piece interacting with the others. Todd Rosenthal’s set is amazing and sets the tone for the entire production, The lighting (David Lander) is stunning, the sound (Richard Woodbury who also did the original music), costumes (Jenny Mannis) and all of the stage crew who made sure the many props (no mention of the props person, who did a magnificent job assembling a myriad of items) were in all the right places at all the right times. Each act ends with a stunning feeling, as does the production. Wishcamper has brought this production to new heights.
“The Little Foxes” will continue at The Goodman thru June 7th with performances as follows:
Thursdays 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 2 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 p.m.
Sunday, June 7th at 7:30 p.m. as well.
Tickets range from $25- $81 and are available at the box office located at 170 N. Dearborn Street, by phone at 312-443-3800 or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org
Every Wednesday and Thursdays evenings there are discussions after the performance as well as on the 29th of May and June 5th.
$10 Student tix are available (if tickets are in fact available on day of performance)
MezzTix are half price for mezzanine seats, again , subject to availability.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Little Foxes”