Total Rating: 
March 17, 2017
April 15, 2017
Asolo Repertory Theater
Theater Type: 
Asolo Repertory - Mertz Theater
Theater Address: 
5555 North Tamiami Trail
Running Time: 
2 hrs, 45 min
Lillian Hellman
Frank Galati

The Little Foxes could almost be a template for a realistic three-act melodrama, yet in this era of nontraditional structures, Lillian Hellman’s 1939 play laid in 1900 Alabama still works. Its anti-heroine, strong like women now more often onstage, is as grasping as her wealthy town-controlling brothers. Like a famous contemporary Wall Street film hero, this family acts on the premise that greed is good . . . for themselves. They want to make their fortunes great again and again and again in their family future. Men first, of course. That’s what grates on their sister Regina.

When attractive Regina (Tracy Michelle Arnold, steely) meets successful Chicago businessman William Marshall (charmer Tom Coiner), who would let her family co-invest in his promising scheme, she’s determined to join him — all the way. Because, as a woman, she didn’t inherit her family’s wealth, she needs that of husband Horace (David Breitbarth, sensitive and sensible) . Regina commands their Negro manservant (obliging Sean Blake) to bring Horace from his Philadelphia treatment for a crippling heart condition.

Regina’s brother Ben (William Dick, commanding) keeps an upper hand on the family wealth by being the Hubbards’s legal and financial expert. He does insist he and brother Oscar (Matt DeCaro, hyper and sadistic) have an alternate source of investment money if Regina can’t get Horace to cooperate. Oscar, a brute who got his plantation by marrying aristocrat Birdie (Denise Cormier, finally well suited for a major Asolo role as a disappointed dreamer and drunk), has always wanted their son Leo to marry Regina’s daughter Alexandra for her eventual inheritance.

Leo is neither a good young person nor businessman. (Scott Kuiper substitutes gullibility and fear for evil-doing, but he’s not quite unlikeable enough to pull off as much bad as the play allows.) He never has a chance with Alexandra, whom Kelly Elizabeth Smith shows can have a mind of her own and some of her father’s ethical sense.

When Horace, now home, rejects Regina’s pleas, her brothers get Leo to steal Horace’s bonds from his bank deposit box. They invest the bond money. Horace finds out. Regina finds out. In Biblical terms, the foxes are out to crush tender fruit on its vine. Alexandra withstands the pressure that Breitbarth’s effective Horace has helped her — more than he could — do. Horace also provides for the wise, good black housekeeper (credible Taylar [sic]) so that she can escape complete dependence on the Hubbards.

Director Frank Galati works well to avoid stereotyping any of the characters, though it is impossible to avoid Oscar’s super villainy, especially in his physical as well as mental abuse of Birdie. Tracy Michelle Arnold makes Regina in some ways admirable but she’s still overall (rightly) despicable. Galati stresses the dependent condition of women in the play’s time and at its place in American history. Hellman’s best observations and dialogue are admirably emphasized.

Alan E. Schwanke’s sumptuous set bespeaks its owners’s tastes, as well as their era and assumptions. The heavily varnished wood, many realistically rendered country-set paintings, substantial fabrics of Victorian furniture and drapery, as well as the piano in the background of the great living room are well designed and placed. Lighting and sound contribute to the mood of each scene. Both costumes and hair styles are perfect. The director and technical team evidence a mellow feeling for the dramatic in a last-century play that shows a not unimportant affinity with the present.

Taylar (sic), Sean Blake, Denise Cormier, Matt DeCaro, Scott Kuiper, Tracy Michelle Arnold, Tom Coiner, William Dick, Kelly Elizabeth Smith, David Breitbarth
Set: Alan E. Schwanke; Costumes: Tracy Dorman; Lights: Paul Miller; Sound: Matthew Parker; Fight Director: Dan Granke; Hair/Wig, Make-up: Michelle Hart; Production Stage Mgr.: Kelly A. Borgia
Marie J. Kilker
Date Reviewed: 
March 2017