McGillis Takes on Little Foxes
BY Trudy Ring
June 03 2009 12:00 AM ET
Addie and Cal are the
play's only African-American characters, and their roles as
written are somewhat of the "faithful family retainer" ilk,
problematic for 2009 audiences, undoubtedly more acceptable to
some 1939 viewers. Still, Hellman imbues them with a degree of
dignity certainly not seen in, say, most black characters on
film in that era, and that dignity is also present in the
portrayals by Cason and Derricks. It's also clear that Addie
and Cal harbor no illusions about their white employers; in
fact, it's Addie who sums up the play's theme, that there are
people who devour the world around them and others who just
stand by and watch -- but both are culpable in the resulting
The Little Foxes
depicts the contrast between New South and Old, its message is
not necessarily that the latter was better. When Birdie
rhapsodizes about her parents' plantation and claims their
slaves were treated well, audiences at one time might have
bought into the idea that this was a kinder, more gracious way
of living; today, recognizing that plantation life was kind and
gracious for whites only, theatergoers will likely see Birdie
as deluded -- or in denial -- about the peculiar institution
that paved the way for the racial and class exploitation
practiced by crude capitalists like the Hubbards.
And Hellman's play, in
this high-quality production, remains an effective indictment
of their still-familiar brand of capitalism. It's well worth
spending a couple of hours watching these characters try to
outfox one another.
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