The Little Foxes
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Theater review by David Cote
In Manhattan Theatre Club’s latest offering, a lawless family schemes and backstabs in the ruthless pursuit of wealth and power. Surprisingly, the setting is not the White House: It’s Lillian Hellman’s 1939 potboiler, in which Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon alternate performances as sisters-in-law Regina Giddens (lusty and rapacious) and Birdie Hubbard (cowed and kindly).
Daniel Sullivan directs Hellman’s Alabama tale with a crisp vigor that smooths over its melodramatic bumps. The prime mover is Regina, who plots with brothers Ben and Oscar (malevolently perfect Michael McKean and Darren Goldstein) to close a deal on a cotton mill in order to make them all filthy rich. The cast is uniformly strong, and outstanding work comes from the leading ladies. Linney is fire and ice: regal yet ready to spit venom. And Nixon, in the configuration I saw, is delicately touching as the meek, damaged Birdie. The Little Foxes may not command as high a prospect in the pantheon of American drama as more poetic work by Tennessee Williams or Eugene O’Neill, but it’s cunningly built and packs a punch; it’s the August: Osage County of the interwar years.
Critics were invited to see Linney and Nixon in both roles to comment on their range, but I only had time to see Linney’s Regina. This is such a richly satisfying revival, I’m going back for seconds.
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. By Lillian Hellman. Directed by Daniel Sullivan. With Laura Linney, Cynthia Nixon. Running time: 2hrs 30mins. Two intermissions. Through June 18.
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