The Little Foxes

Dutch director Ivo van Hove has transformed Lillian Hellman's play by moving it out of its early 1900s setting and allowing its heartless characters to stand unadorned.

New York Theatre Workshop

New York

(212) 279-4200

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Dutch director Ivo van Hove has transformed Lillian Hellman’s “dated drawing-room melodrama” from 1939 into something much more substantial, said Jesse Oxfeld in The New York Observer. As he’s done previously with A Streetcar Named Desire and Hedda Gabler, van Hove strips this tale—about a backstabbing, money-grubbing Southern family—of all its original period detail, leaving just the unforgettable characters and their sinister conniving. Hellman’s selfish protagonist, Regina, and her rapacious brothers, Oscar and Ben, dress in contemporary clothes and occupy a set with a modern, minimalist look. The effect is to create a “timeless portrait of heartless people obsessed with money.”

The Hubbard siblings’ collective and callous disregard for all but their own individual needs certainly seems to suggest that “greed disguised as capitalism never goes out of style,” said Jennifer Farrar in the Associated Press. Yet these characters never seem like mere stereotypes: In fact, moving the play out of its early 1900s setting lets the audience focus on the characters as true individuals rather than just representatives of their time and place. Oscar and Ben Hubbard, who are trying to bilk their sister out of $75,000 so that they can build a cotton mill, have always been thugs. Here you encounter their “true barbaric natures” as never before.

Thomas Jay Ryan is positively loathsome as the snarling Oscar, “a gelded sadist who likes to sock his wife,” said Scott Brown in New York. Marton Csokas’ take on manipulative brother Ben, meanwhile, can be creepy. But the night belongs to Elizabeth Marvel, who plays Regina as a “half-feral yuppie sociopath, for whom taking a punch is practically the same as throwing one.” Hellman said that she originally wrote The Little Foxes as “a call to arms against ‘those who eat the earth.’” After watching this sensational cast punch and lunge their way through van Hove’s “avant-garde haunted house,” you’ll be ready to do battle too.

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