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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey


  Kelly McGillis/Ph: Craig Schwartz

Lillian Hellman's insidious nest of vipers are back, and this time the  selected snake pit is the Garden State where the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey  has begun a summer season that will host Moliere's The School for Wives, Homer's The Odyssey,  Michael Frayn's Noises Off and the beloved Bard's battle of the sexes, The Taming of the Shrew.   On the outdoor stage, Prospero will weave his magic spell in The Tempest through August 2.

In the meantime the manipulative Regina Giddens is ruling the roost in The Little Foxes, which continues through June 28.  The Hubbard family of Alabama are a carnivorous lot engaged in unsettling business practices, ready to sell out their own kin to finance a cotton mill. Hellman's play first appeared on Broadway in 1939 starring Tallulah Bankhead as the ruthlessly callous Regina, a role later entrusted to  such grand dames as Anne Bancroft, Geraldine Page, Stockard Channing, Margaret Leighton and Elizabeth Taylor in addition to a classic 1941 screen performance by Bette Davis,  A Broadway transfer from a Pasadena Playhouse production that stars Kelly McGillis  has been touted as a possible Broadway entry for the new season.

Set at the turn of the  twentieth century the drama focuses on a greedy family clan and certainly bears a resemblance to the recent devious maneuvers of one Bernie Madoff, who also displayed little regard for those who trusted him. The insidious siblings and assorted in-laws go at each other hammer and tongs,

Director Matthew Arbour  has staged the play with the compelling sweep of a grand opera. His cast is fueled with a cunning sense of spit and polish. The superbly well seasoned Kathryn Meisle  plays Regina Giddens with a steady, sure hand. Careful not to be swindled by her manipulative relatives she plays cat and mouse with a devious subtlety that would turn Lucretia Borgia, Cleopatra and DuMaurier's Mrs. Danvers to ice.

There is superb support from Deanne Lorette as the flighty unstable Birdie.  Venida Evans  brings comforting assurance and stability to the role of the loyal family servant, and Lindsey Wochley  is the pert and proper and defiantly no-nonsense Giddens' daughter.

The men engage in a verbal duel of wits. Bradford Cover  leads the pack as a stoic Horace, who desperately attempts to settle financial matters before his untimely demise. Brian Dyykstra  and Fisher Neal  are less effective as the bullying Oscar and his thieving lily-livered son respectively.

Philip Goodwin  offers a fine account of the crafty schemer, Benjamin Hubbard.

This is cold and cynical story-telling and an engrossing creation from Broadway's glory days.

Praise in legion goes to  Scott Bradley for a  Victorian set design that provides a stately and steely  warmth, and to Brian Russsman's  handsome period costumes.


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