Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Little Foxes

The New York Theatre Workshop under the direction of Ivo Van Hove has put a unique and refreshing performance of Lillian Hellman's stage gem.  Bare stage with purple velvet walls, ominous music, video, and, what I can only presume is the director's signature on this work, several anachronistic elements that turned this twisted family ordeal into the a powerhouse performance on East 4th Street.

From the get-go, the feel was "Festen-like".  An incestuous family, dark secrets, money, greed, power, and sex start this gem off and it only kicks into a higher gear with every passing eerie moment.  Elizabeth Marvel (Regina Giddens), Marton Csokas (Ben Hubbard), and Thomas Jay Ryan (Oscar Hubbard) take the helm as the Hubbard children - siblings in a long line of southern Hubbards hell bent on proving they can be even more successful Hubbards than all before them.  Backstabbing, negotiating, side-dealing, and cheating at every turn.  Christopher Evan Welch (Horace Giddens), the terminally ill brother-in-law holds the key to the entire deal and we find out just how far this family is willing to go to achieve their goals.

This is one of those plays that leaves an impression on you for days and weeks afterward.  You'll return to it ruminating on this aspect or that ploy or that relationship.  I did wonder (as did many of those who I chatted with after the play) why the director choose to introduce all the anachronistic elements into the performance - the car alarm sounds, the coffee maker, the airport moving sidewalk, and the video itself.  I found them slightly distracting, constantly wondering "what it meant".   I respect the decision, of course, and will admit they the entire production was a tremendous, high-impact success.

Is there room on Broadway for another Festen so soon?  With the right leading lady and supporting cast, I think so.  Too bad Tallulah Bankhead, Elizabeth Taylor, and Betty Davis can't reprise their roles (the Regina in the original Broadway production in 1939, revival in 1981, and and the movie in 1941 respectively).  I can think of a few evil deals that could be struck for the 2011-2012 season.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.  I don't have all the cash yet.