Lillian Hellman’s acclaimed “The Little Foxes” has inundated The Goodman Theatre and is winding itself around the heart of every audience that comes to experience it. Directed by Henry Wishcamper, this production retains all of the sinister energy and political exploration that has coined it as one of America’s great plays.
“The Little Foxes” chronicles an ominous slice of the life of three brooding siblings, Oscar Hubbard (Steve Pickering), Benjamin Hubbard (Larry Yando) and Regina Giddens (Shannon Cochran), who are attempting to fund a lucrative cotton mill that could make each of them rich. While Oscar and Benjamin possess money to give, Regina’s slice of the bargain depends on her ailing husband’s willingness to invest.
Though the production tells a tale that is more than a century old, its characters, its messages, and its lessons ring as true today as they did years ago.
“I think because it taps on issues that are still very prevalent today,” Dexter Zollicoffer, who has taken on the role of Cal in this season’s production, said. “Issues such as class, issues about greed, about the lengths people will go to succeed. It also touches on race, quite clearly it talks about race. The haves and the haves not and also about the difference in sort of a ‘Southern culture’ versus a ‘Northern culture.’ At least our perceptions of what a Southern culture is versus a Northern culture. So I think all of those elements are still very current today and it’s what we are still discussing in classrooms and universities all over the country today.”
The impressive cast that carries “The Little Foxes” is impeccable in its entirety, though there are a few key players who add something truly dynamic to its existence. Shannon Cochran, who portrays the infamous Regina, delivers an incredibly dimensional and nuanced performance. Larry Yando’s Benjamin Hubbard crackles with a similar kind of electric evil.
Zollicoffer’s portrayal of Cal adds something truly special to the performance, too. Indicative of the times in which the play is set, Cal is the household’s male butler.
“I love the fact that in these servant roles, like all servant roles, whether it’s in Shakespeare or Maurier or, in this case, Hellman, servants are generally the people who are the watchers of the family,” explained Zolicoffer. “They see everything and they know everything. Now whether or not they can express themselves depends on the times and depends on the scenario. But, like in most plays, it is really the servants who are the voice of reason, who sort of see the people around them for who they are.”
While some of the characters that comprise this tale are benevolent and others are deceitful, all are nuanced and dynamic.
The show is as stunning and rigorous in its visual elements as it is in its thematic explorations; though there are no large scenic changes, its set is deliciously layered and multi-faceted, like an enormous dollhouse full of greed and deceit.
“The Goodman is a very big theater,” Zollicoffer said. “It’s a very high profile theater, so all of that sort of lends itself to the productions. When I think about this show, I think this show is a big cast and a big theater and this is a big production and the Goodman can afford to do that.”
The Goodman’s newest gift leaves no stone unturned. It is rife with important and enduring themes, chock-full of artistic talent, and it is an important reminder of the greed that some people are capable of, along with the strength and benevolence others have the capacity to demonstrate in the face of it.
“The Little Foxes” will be in the Albert at The Goodman Theatre from May 2 through June 7.