Theatre Mirror Reviews-"The Little Foxes"

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entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"The Little Foxes"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Rhode Island College Theatre's current mainstage production is "The Little Foxes." "The Little Foxes" is a play written in 1939 by Lillian Hellman. Its title comes from Chapter 2, Verse 15 of the Song of Solomon in the King James version of the Bible, which reads, "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes." The show is set in Georgia in 1900 and it focuses on the struggle for the control of a family business. The evil and greedy Hubbard family brothers, Ben and Oscar plot with their cunning sister, Regina Giddens to take over the family business by any way possible. Also figuring into the storyline are Regina's good-hearted ailing husband, Horace, her wistful and naive daughter, Alexandra, Oscar's unprincipled son, Leo, and his lonely, abused mother, Birdie. Add two kindly servants and a Northern businessman to the mix and you have Rhode Island College's latest show, "The Little Foxes." Kudos also on the beautiful two story set by Katryne Hecht, the gorgeous costumes by Charlotte Dunning Burgess, the women's terrific wigs by Marianne Coleman and the wonderful direction of Bob Colonna on the creation of this stunning piece of theater.

Bob elicits topnotch acting from his 10 performers, making them into these Lillian Hellman characters with ease. Helena Tafuri is superb as the ambitious, cold hearted Regina. She enters and you know immediately that she is a match for any of the men in that room. Helena commands your attention with her authoritative voice. Her arguments with her brothers and with causing Horace's fatal attack, sitting by and doing nothing, are shining moments in this show. Helena displays the despair of Regina at the end of the show as she realizes she will be rich but lonely now that her daughter has left her behind and is punished by being left alone with Horace's dead body in the house. A wonderful young actress playing this difficult role of an older woman with poise.

Joe DeLeo as Ben and Jack Clarke as Oscar are equally dynamic in their roles. Joe plays the food loving elder brother who controls the family business as well as the family. His despotic character shines through and his eventual defeat by Regina turns into an accusation when Ben asks her what was a man in a wheelchair doing on the stairway? Joe's character of Ben will win the day with his craftiness. Marvelous job as this evil man. Jack enters as Oscar and you immediately know that he is a villain by his strong delivery and vocal quality. Jack as Oscar browbeats his son, argues with Ben and Regina and slaps his wife, Birdie in the face. He delivers the goods each of these times and his hangdog expression is topnotch after Regina defeats them.

Two of the good not evil characters are Horace and Birdie. Neil Jeronimo plays the dying man splendidly. He is dynamite in this role and shows how even though Horace is still weak from his illness, he still musters the energy to stand up to Regina's treachery to protect his beloved daughter. The argument scene between Neil and Helena is electrifying. He also displays his love for Alexandra and his loyal maid, Addie, too.Neil handles this dramatic role as easily as he handled the comic one in "Tartuffe" in September. Kelly Rock plays the sympathetic unhappy Birdie perfectly. She displays the happiness of her youth before her entanglement with Oscar and even admits her dislike of her own son. The character hasn't had a happy day in twenty two years and you feel Birdie's hurt and anguish in Kelly's brilliant portrayal. The party scene and the confession scene show off her talent. The audience definitely feels the pain she has endured by being part of this horrible family all these years.

The younger roles are handled as well as the older ones. Jackeline Aguirre makes Alexandra grow from a giggly youngster to mature woman by show's end. This can be a difficult task but she does it beautifully. The death of her father gives her the strength to stand up to her vile mother and she leaves the house to become the person her father wanted her to be. Casey McKeon makes Leo the dupe of Ben and Oscar. His bad manners and ill manners at the party show the person he really is. Leo treats women and horses as badly as his father. Casey's nervousness when caught and his emotional outbursts during the show give him comic relief scenes. His inappropriate conduct as Leo is very well done.

Rounding out the cast are Heron Kennedy as the  Addie, the strong willed Irish maid who defends Zan and Horace against Regina, Patrick Connolly as Cal, the slow witted comic butler who is loyal to Horace and Aaron Blanck as Mr. Marshall, the Northern businessman who tempts the evil Hubbard family with the wealth of the cotton mill. So for a splendid piece of Americana and a marvelously written show, be sure to catch "The Little Foxes" to witness marvelous acting and direction. This show brings back many happy memories for me, having directed it back in 1980 for Warwick Players.

"The Little Foxes" (12 - 16 November)
@ Helen Forman Theatre, 600 Mount Pleasant Avenue, PROVIDENCE RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide