Monday, October 18, 2010

The Little Foxes

Photo: Jan Versweyveld

Watching Ivo Van Hove's direction of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes, I was reminded of the Forbidden Broadway take-off of the most recent revival of The King and I. The skit advised directors of classics that, if they run out of ideas, they can always have the performers play the subtext (as in replacing "Shall We Dance" with "Shall We Boink"). In Hellman's The Little Foxes, the story of three siblings vying for money and power, everyone is rotten. In Van Hove's version, everyone is really, really, really rotten. The family members yell and punch the walls and whale away on each other (necessitating fresh Bandaids during the performance I saw). Does this approach work? Absolutely! The tension builds beautifully, and there is no doubt that everyone is playing for keeps. Also, casting Birdie young and beautiful takes her role out of the usual stereotypes and assumptions, and the bare stage and purple-ish, velvet-ish walls work well. The cast is strong--as are their lungs!--and the direction is never less than compelling. However, an important question must be asked: does Van Hove's concept-heavy direction add more than it takes away? I think the answer must be no. Hellman's Little Foxes already provides the tension and fascinating relationships; it is a solid, well-written play. Most of Van Hove's contributions come across as noise--interesting noise, but noise nonetheless.

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