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The Little Foxes

Kelly McGillis stars in the Pasadena Playhouse's modestly successful production of Lillian Hellman's classic drama about greed.

By Los Angeles
Kelly McGillis in The Little Foxes
(© Craig Schwartz)
Kelly McGillis in The Little Foxes
(© Craig Schwartz)
The love of money is more than the root of all evil in Lillian Hellman's classic familial drama, The Little Foxes, now being revived at the Pasadena Playhouse. As Hellman well knew, when inflamed by desperation and an unerring sense of self-interest, love sours to greed and becomes an all-consuming corrupter of the heart and soul. Director Dámaso Rodriguez explores this terrain with limited success in this production -- where his workmanlike cast is headed by Kelly McGillis as the domineering Regina Giddens and Julia Duffy as her downtrodden, alcoholic sister-in-law, Birdie Hubbard -- but ultimately, the audience is likely to leave feeling a little shortchanged.

While her brothers, the smug, glad-handing Ben (a marvelous Steve Vinovich) and smarmy Oscar (Marc Singer), work to wrap up a high-stakes deal with Chicago businessman William Marshall (Tom Schmid), Regina manages to find a way to tilt the merger to her financial favor and, as a bonus, get her ailing husband Horace (Geoff Pierson) out of the way for good.

But her brothers are not far behind in their prowler instincts. Weasely Oscar has so thoroughly beaten down the spirit of his timid wife, Birdie (well-played by Duffy), that she turns to drink and nervous chatter to cover up her hurt. And Ben is the backstabber-with-a-smile type, the kind who makes you believe you caused the knife to be thrust in and that twisting pain you feel is just him trying to pull it out and save you.

However, if that sense of menace born in these siblings is to work, there must also be a buildup of dramatic tension to support and sustain it. Sorry to say, that tension is in terribly short supply. As the manipulative Regina, McGillis acquits herself well enough in Act I, which mostly requires cunningness and charm on her part. But Rodriguez pulls his punches in Act II and lets some of the most climactic moments -- such as Regina watching Horace's dying struggle to pull himself upstairs to get his medicine -- play as flat and fake as a counterfeit dollar bill. Even with the increasing thunderstorm outside (kudos to sound designer Michael Hooker) foreshadowing terrible things to come, the lack of tension is evident.

The color of money is everywhere in scenic designer Gary Wissman's beautiful, open plantation home set, and is complimented by Dan Jenkins' subtle lighting. From the wall treatments to the furniture upholstery, shades of currency green are constant reminders of what is most important to Regina, a woman even willing to marry off her only child, Alexandra (Rachel Sondag), to Birdie and Oscar's insipid, lazy son, Leo (Shawn Lee) to keep the money in the family.

Fortunately some brighter moments -- as well as a few laughs -- come from Cleavant Derricks and Yvette Cason as devoted servants Cal and Addie. Cal's scenes with Horace regarding an important mission Horace sends him on are particularly lovely and stand out as some of the most honestly connected moments in the show.


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