The Rubicon Theater Company's production of Lillian Hellman's "The Little Foxes" is set in a small southern town during a three week period in 1900. It takes place in the elegant, but not lavish living room of the Giddens. It's lit with candles, and we have costumes of the period.
This is predominantly a story of two families who have intermarried, and their different attitudes toward wealth, power, and goodness of spirit. We're told a couple of times, once by Ben Hubbard, then repeated by Alexandra Giddens, that there are "people who eat the earth, and those who stand and watch them do it." The Hubbard brothers, Ben and Oscar, cheat, lie, and steal to get everything they can. Their father left Ben money, and they have accumulated from there.
Their great prize was the plantation Lynette. It was owned by Birdie Hubbard's family. They were true Southern aristocracy, and wouldn't associate with the Hubbards. After the Civil War, Ben wanted the cotton that Lynette produced. He had brother Oscar woo and marry Birdie so he could get the plantation.
Birdie's mother didn't like Oscar because she was old fashioned enough to be upset at cheating the freed slaves and pitting them against one another. She also didn't like people who shoot animals they can't use, as Oscar did every day. Oscar is simply a mean, frustrated person who takes it out on Birdie and everyone else who he can.
Birdie says that in 22 years she hasn't had a whole day of happiness. Oscar hits her once or twice, and ridicules everything she does or likes. She loves music and has an autographed program that was given to her by Wagner. She plays piano when she can, but music makes Oscar nervous and he won't let her play. She tells Alexandra that this is how she will be if she marries her son, Leo, who she doesn't even like. Birdie says Alexandra will be worse off because she doesn't have a sweet mother, thoughts of whom are Birdie's only real happiness.
Regina is Alexandra's mother, Horace Gidden's wife, and sister to Ben and Oscar. She's just like her brothers in character, except the money was left to them and she has had to use her feminine charms to get what she wants. Horace is well off, but he has a bad heart and will die soon. He has always lived a relatively modest life,and forced Regina to do it, too. She hates him for it. She flirts with Mr. Marshall, who's going to invest in the cotton processing plant Ben and Oscar want to build. They need Horace's money, and Linda Purl's Regina drives a hard bargain.
Oscar and Birdie's son Leo is the product of one too many generations of in breeding. He's young, rich, wild, and dumb as a post. When Horace won't invest in the Hubbard Brothers' plant, they set Leo to steal his rail road bonds. Joseph Fuqua's Leo bumbles through it more or less. Oscar wants to arrange a marriage between Leo and Alexandra, first cousins, so he can get Horace's money. Regina agrees to give it "serious consideration" to placate Oscar, but Horace and Alexandra are simply repulsed.
Birdie and Horace are good people, who to greater or lesser degrees watch the Hubbards "eat the earth." Karyl Lynn Burns' Birdie is a sad figure. She truly loves but is stifled and abused, both mentally and physically by Oscar. Horace has lost his health, but, wer are told, is loved and respected by the whole town. More importantly, he has a loving relationship with his daughter, Alexandra. Heather Pendergast's alexandra is sweet and loving, and she alone has the spirit and resolve to fight for a better world.
The Hubbards on the other hand, take what they want, regardless of the consequences. When Regina threatens to report the theft of the bonds to the police, she points out that Ben and Oscar won't be able to find a jury of twelve men who they haven't cheated.
Ashland Veteran Philip Davidson is a tremendous Ben Hubbard. He alone is intelligent enough to figure out that Horace won't say anything about the bonds. He's the one who makes deals and gets what he can, He's cagey and sly. James O'Neil's Oscar pretty much does what he's told. He resents his inferiority to Ben mightily, and takes it out on anyone he can.
This is the frist Rubicon Theater Company production that I've seen, and I was mightily impressed. This is a professional company of Equity Actors. Lillian Hellman is one of my very favorite playwrights, and I've wanted to see "Little Foxes" for a long time. This is an excellent production. The sets and costumes were elegant, without being overblown. The acting was superb from top to bottom. This is a truly first rate production of "The Little Foxes" by The Ventura Rubicon Theater Company.