Though it was written more than 80 years ago, playwright Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes still resonates with its themes of classism, racism and the damaging effects of unbridled greed, all of which are sadly still with us today. It also points an accusing finger at the way women are treated by society — and how they’re expected to behave.
In this circa-1900 story of a rather nasty southern family at war with itself, there are four types of women depicted. Regina Hubbard Giddens is the de facto matriarch of the squabbling clan, a strong-willed woman whose desire for her place at the table with men has turned her into a first-class manipulator.
Birdie is her aptly-named sister-in-law, a fragile belle of the old south whose spirit has been broken by her marriage to Oscar, Regina’s callous brother. Alexandra, Regina’s 17-year-old daughter, has not yet been tainted by life’s cruelties…but she’s about to get a powerful lesson.
Finally, there’s Addie, the gentle-hearted African-American maid who can only watch in barely-concealed disgust as the family implodes.
Oscar and Regina’s other brother, Ben, have the opportunity to invest in a cotton mill, a project that could bring them millions, but they need an additional $75,000. They want Regina to get the money from Horace, her ailing husband, but he is in the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore being treated for a serious heart condition. She sends Alexandra to bring him home, and the obedient girl does as she’d told, unaware of the real reason for her journey.
When they return home, it’s painfully obvious that Horace is far too weak to have left the hospital. Nevertheless, Regina immediately launches into him. Realizing that he’s being played, he refuses to turn over the money — but the devious brothers have already concocted a secret, alternate scheme.
The Classic’s production of The Little Foxes is excellent. The set design by Alfy Valdez and the costumes by Yesenia Tafur splendidly evoke the Deep South. The lighting by Pedro C. Ramirez and sound design by Evan Middlesworth add the finishing touches. It’s well-directed by Melissa Utley, who finds all the dramatic rhythms in this classic piece.
The cast is first-rate. Byrd Bonner and Anthony Ciaravino excel as the sneeringly unscrupulous brothers, and John O’Neill is persuasive as the dying Horace. Alyx Irene Gonzales and Christi Eanes are both terrific as Alexandra and Birdie, and Hunter Wulff is fine as Oscar’s swaggering son, Leo. Charlene Watts and Torence White are also impressive as the servants, Addie and Cal, who maintain their dignity even as they’re being treated as inferiors by the racist brothers. Kelly Hilliard is unforgettable as the cunning Regina, whose seething emotions can clearly be read on her expressive face.
The Little Foxes plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. through May 26 at the Classic Theatre, 1924 Fredericksburg Road. Reservations can be made online or by calling the box office at (210) 589-8450.
Feature photo (Siggi Ragnar) L-R: John O’Neill, Byrd Bonner, Anthony Ciaravino, Kelly Hilliard and Hunter Wulff.