Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Study in Greed and Evil Theatre Jacksonville Stages 'Little Foxes'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Study in Greed and Evil Theatre Jacksonville Stages 'Little Foxes'

Article excerpt

Lillian Hellman is probably better known today for her long, stormy relationship with fellow writer Dashiell Hammett and for her self-aggrandizing memoirs of the 1970s than for the plays that first established her reputation.

With The Children's Hour (1934), The Little Foxes (1939) and Watch on the Rhine (1941), Hellman built the reputation of being a dramatist able to bring social issues to life in vividly melodramatic plays.

But her output as a playwright declined significantly after World War II; she moved on to other ventures, becoming involved in the stormy politics of the McCarthy era (Hammett, with whom she was romantically involved for three decades, went to prison for refusing to name names) and then penning the controversial memoirs.

One of those memoirs became the basis for the film Julia (1977), in which Jane Fonda played Hellman and Jason Robards played Hammett (a more recent television biography had Judy Davis as Hellman and Sam Shepard as Hammett). By the time she died, her work in the theater seemed a distant memory.

Given that, it's something of a revelation to discover how vivid and modern The Little Foxes still seems. The play, at least as it is being performed at Theatre Jacksonville, is a wonderful dark comedy about some spectacularly nasty people.

Those people are the Hubbards, two brothers and a sister, who live in a small town in an unspecified Southern state (references to Savannah and Jekyll Island make it appear the state is Georgia) at the turn-of-the-century. Ben Hubbard, Oscar Hubbard and Regina Hubbard Giddens pride themselves on their humble beginning and on the fact that they have risen to financial prominence through sharp practices and a willingness to take advantage of others. Greedy, self-absorbed and cruel, they are deliciously slimy people, and they are deliciously played by Sandra Spurney (as Regina, a role first played on Broadway by Tallulah Bankhead and played in the movie adaptation by Bette Davis), Greg Leute and Del Austin.

The particulars of the plot concern negotiations to build a cotton mill in town, thus advancing the Hubbards from merely well-to-do to filthy rich. They have secured a partner from the North, and all that is needed is a $225,000 investment by them. But while Ben and Oscar each has raised $75,000 for their shares, they need Regina and her absent husband, Horace, to put up the rest. …

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