When I read the review of The Little Foxes in the paper a week ago and a half ago today I was flummoxed.
Why had I not circled back to Libby when she first suggested it as a show for us or the group to see (forgive me Libby)? How many shows can one person respectably see on Broadway before someone starts to question her lifestyle choices? What would my husband say if I suggested there was one more show I had to see? So I sat quietly, did some deep breathing, and decided I had to let this show go. Sigh.
Cue the text from my all things theater/broadway fairy godmother friend: Samira Sine. She asked: “Do you want to see The Little Foxes with me on Wednesday? My Treat.” I think I stumbled on the sidewalk at my good fortune, sent a quiet thank you to her dog Hunter, which is how we met, and said YES, ABSOLUTELY, YES. Thank you Samira for thinking of me and if you want to go again – I am certain you know my answer! 🙂
You really have to see The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman TWICE to appreciate what is happening on that stage. Night after night, good faces down bad. Spoiler alert: bad wins (kind of). In this play that takes place in the south during the spring of 1900, we observe two diametrically opposed female characters living their lives. Regina is the embodiment of the phrase “hell hath know fury as a woman scorned.” She is willing to do anything and sacrifice ANYONE to get what is her rightful due. Birdie, her sister in law, is like her name suggests: fragile, nervous and flitting about as a shadow of her most beautiful self. Regina stalks and schemes, while Birdie skulks and slowly deflates.
Pitting good against evil is not a unique thematic choice. Having two actors in these opposing roles switch roles night after night?? That is a CRAZY unique choice and I would dare say IMPOSSIBLE were it not for the women that were cast in the revival of this show. Their reputations alone are reason to buy a ticket: Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon. Both women are studious masters of their craft and as theater club member Ann Haddad assessed, “Two of the finest actresses working today.” For them to go on stage each night ALTERNATING the dialogue and gesture rich roles of Regina and Birdie boggles the mind and provides ample motivation to see it twice.
Our performance featured Cynthia Nixon as the hard nosed and unlikeable Regina. Laura Linney was break your heart good as Birdie. Throughout the show and into the next day I could not help wondering how each would have played the other role in this embroiled narrative. Then I got to wondering how would these transposed roles play out in the Tony Award Nominations (being announced on Tuesday). Would they each get nominated for BOTH roles? Awkward. I have since learned each woman is eligible for a nomination in the role that she played on opening night. We saw the non-Tony award eligible performances. Yet another reason to make a return to see this show!
If this role twist is not enough to buy at least one ticket, Richard Thomas, aka John Boy of The Waltons, turns up as Regina’s husband in the second act and he is brilliant. True to his John Boy roots he is good as gold and does his best to sabotage the underhanded money grubbing plotting. There was a peaceful moment on stage when only the good characters were assembled for a pleasant afternoon together. But as with any calm, a tsunami of a storm follows resulting in some major damage to everyone involved. No one left the stage unscathed.
This idea for part swapping came from Laura Linney. She was originally offered the role of Regina, but had always wanted to explore the part of Birdie. Knowing that her friend Cynthia had always coveted the role of Regina, she generously brainstormed that role switching would be the best of both worlds for the two of them. Lynne Meadow, the artistic director of the Manhattan Theater club, agreed and pitched the idea to Cynthia Nixon. Her reaction was, “Lynne, that is a crazy idea,” followed up with an immediate yes! The show is scheduled to close July 1st. See it once. See it twice. See it.
And just for fun…here is the rather caustic film review from 1941 with none other then Bette Davis starring in the role of Regina. Side tid bit: Ms. Bette Midler was named after Bette Davis but her mother dropped the accent with the attendant syllable and called her just Bette. I should probably find another hobby. 🙂