Metro Weekly

“The Little Foxes” at Arena Stage (review)

The Little Foxes is an evening's worth of fine, old-fashioned entertainment


A pleasingly old-fashioned melodrama, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes (starstarstar) may be tame by modern standards, but in Arena’s production, it remains a satisfyingly well spun tale. Set in the turn-of-the-century American South, it’s a story of greed, family and the warp and weft of martial power. The unraveling begins with the lady of the house, Regina Giddens, and her brothers Oscar and Benjamin Hubbard showing themselves eager to invest in a speculative new cotton mill they believe will bring vast wealth. The fly in the ointment is Regina’s husband Horace, a canny man laid low with heart trouble, who has refused to commit the Giddens’ money. As time runs out, Regina and her brothers begin to show their true colors.

Foxes has always been a star vehicle for the actor playing Regina, and here Marg Helgenberger does an admirable job of bringing some real personality to a character who begs to be played large and lavishly entitled. She is a familiar type — not least because she has inspired so many derivations — and making her unique is the challenge here. Helgenberger certainly has the charisma for this alpha woman, but her rather no-nonsense edge gives Regina more the feel of a well-heeled frontierswoman than a Southern Belle, despite a bold accent (that occasionally borders on OTT). Though it gives her an interesting modernity and avoids caricature, it doesn’t quite sing with the required authenticity.

Making the most of two plum roles are Isabel Keating as Oscar’s browbeaten wife Birdie and Jack Willis in the role of Horace. As the fragile Birdie, Keating delivers a wonderful portrait of a delicate sensibility trampled by an arranged marriage and a cruel husband, bringing a touching pathos to her sad and desperate reminiscences. Arriving midway in the play, Willis gives his Horace a brilliantly dour aspect. He is preparing for death amid a family fray, and Willis beautifully captures the man’s sorrows and his latent anger. In smaller roles that bring quiet continuity are Kim James Bey as Addie and David Emerson Toney as Cal, the two African-American servants who get on with running the house while the family implode. Bey is a strong but understated presence while Toney gently ribs Hellman’s outdated stereotype without taking from his essential place in the family’s life.


As scheming brother Benjamin, Edward Gero offers a subtle performance, but is somewhat undermined by a lack of convincing connection among the siblings. There is too little sense of a lifetime of dynamics in this close-knit crew and it diffuses their conflicts. Matters are not helped by the under-developed offerings of Megan Graves as Regina’s daughter, Alexandra, and Stanton Nash as Oscar’s son, Leo. Both actors have energy but there needs to be more to love about Alexandra if we are to worry for her future and less to love about Leo if we are to believe his behavior. Creating a true sense of this extended family is the challenge for director Kyle Donnelly and here it doesn’t quite gel.

Still, for an evening’s worth of dastardly doings in the bad old South, it is a fine entertainment.

The Little Foxes runs to Oct. 30 at Kreeger Theater, 1101 6th St. SW. Tickets are $50 to $100. Call 202-488-3300 or visit

The Little Foxes at Kreeger Theatre
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