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Sunday, October 7, 2018

THE LITTLE FOXES • St. Louis Actors' Studio

The Southern home of the Giddens family has a whiff of new money to it, but siblings Ben Hubbard (Chuck Brinkley), Oscar Hubbard (Bob Gerchen) and Regina Giddens (Kari Ely) have a deep capacity for what they’d do to get more. The shameless avarice going on in Lillian Hellman’s classic family drama stands in stark contrast to the elegant attire and lilting drawls in St. Louis Actors’ Studio’s season opener. With sharp performances by director John Contini’s robust cast, The Little Foxes, debuting back in 1939, proves greed never goes out of fashion.

Set in a small town in 1900, the play opens in the afterglow of a potential business deal between the unscrupulous Hubbard brothers and Marshall (Richard Lewis), a wealthy Chicago industrialist. They plan to build a cotton mill on the doorstep of the Hubbard’s fields in the South. Ben and Oscar have already benefitted from Oscar’s marriage to Birdie (Laurie McConnell) and into her family’s cotton plantation, and from exploiting the black folks in town, but they need their sister Regina’s rich husband Horace (William Roth) to chip in a third to seal the deal with Marshall. He has no interest in investing.
Oscar (Bob Gerchen), Regina (Kari Ely),
Birdie (Laurie McConnell), Marshall (Richard Lewis)
and Ben (Chuck Brinkley).
Photo credit: Patrick Huber
Horace is in Baltimore recovering from a heart condition and enjoying some peace and quiet away from his wife. Regina’s a fighter who wants the world, but the restrictions on women at the time constrain her influence, so she must do what she can to convince Horace to come home so she can reap the financial rewards and wriggle her way out from under the thumbs of the men in her life.

In the proficient hands of Ely, Regina’s effortless display of Southern charm gives way to vicious determination ominously, all while an expression of grace rarely leaves her face. This is true even as she and Horace dig up the gloomy details of their bloodless marriage, exchanging grievances like poisonous little darts.
Addie (Wendy Greenwood), Birdie (Laurie McConnell),
Alexandra (Bridgette Bassa) and Horace (William Roth).
Photo credit: Patrick Huber
Roth’s Horace is fatigued, but formidable enough to try to put a stop to his wife’s actions, and in a devastating performance, McConnell’s Birdie, deflated and abused by her husband and tossed aside like a used napkin, mostly keeps her head down like she wants to disappear into the wallpaper. Brinkley and Gerchen are the embodiment of cutthroat capitalism as brothers Ben and Oscar Hubbard, and there are also solid performances from Ryan Lawson-Maeske as Leo, the thick-headed son of Birdie and Oscar, and Bridgette Bassa as Alexandra, the good-hearted, concerned daughter caught between Regina and Horace. As the household servants, Wendy Greenwood’s Addie and Dennis Jethro II’s Cal are relegated to the background until they’re alone with Alexandra, Horace and Birdie, and these scenes are the most pure -- free from the toxicity of the others.

Regina (Kari Ely).
Photo credit: Patrick Huber
Megan Harshaw provides sumptuous costumes, and Theatre Marine Productions and Patrick Huber’s impressive set and lighting design show a grand home that’s still a little seedy.

The trappings of the play may seem dated, but the social commentary couldn’t feel more timely. It’s at the Gaslight Theater until the 14th.


THE LITTLE FOXES

Written by Lillian Hellman
Directed by John Contini*
The Gaslight Theater, 358 N. Boyle Ave.
through October 14 | tickets: $30 - $35
Performances Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm

Oscar (Bob Gerchen), Leo (Ryan Lawson-Maeske)
and Ben (Chuck Brinkley).
Photo credit: Patrick Huber

Cast
Regina: Kari Ely*
Birdie: Laurie McConnell*
Horace: William Roth*
Alexandra: Bridgette Bassa
Ben: Chuck Brinkley
Oscar: Bob Gerchen
Leo: Ryan Lawson-Maeske
Addie: Wendy Greenwood
Marshall: Richard Lewis
Cal: Dennis Jethro II


Creative
Horace (William Roth) and Regina (Kari Ely).
Photo credit: Patrick Huber
Stage Manager: Amy J. Paige*
Set Designer: Patrick Huber
Lighting Designer: Patrick Huber
Sound Designer: John Contini*
Technical Director: Joseph Novak
Costume Designer: Megan Harshaw
Props Designer: Jess Stamper
Light Board Operator: Jeff Roberts
Sound Board Operator: Amy J. Paige*
Scenic Designer: Theatre Marine Productions
Master Electrician: Theatre Marine Productions
Public Relations: Candice Coleman
House Manager: Kimberly Sansone

* Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of
Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States

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