I am very pleased to have concluded my longer than expected theatre-going hiatus. The recipient of show #46 honors was LITTLE FOXES at the University of Delaware Rep in Newark. I became familiar with this play last year when considering it as part of a show production research project. My mother also recalls seeing a 1967 revival in New York City, featuring Anne Bancroft in the central role of Regina. This production concluded a three week run as the Rep’s season opener, and seems to have been well received by the (seemingly) supportive local audiences. As a well-traveled theatregoer, I was most impressed by the physical surroundings. The theatre itself is nestled in a gorgeous performance hall that is like the best possible melding of boarding school, Broadway and West End performance venues. The set design, showcased in the company’s YouTube trailer below, also reflected this standard of elegance.
On to the production itself. What seemed most notable to me, somewhat unusually, was the high standard of direction. Several scenes were played very far upstage, playing with audience expectations of storytelling and drama. In at least three cases, the curtain or an onstage door opened on to an already in progress scene. Several moments of silence extended just long enough for me to wonder if it was a case of line-forgetting, and then be pleased that it was in fact a deliberate pacing choice. The actors, nearly all of whom are resident artists at UD, seemed to play off their knowledge and experience with each other.
Two performances stood out amongst the ensemble, although no one in the group could be listed above the other… they all worked together as equals. I found Carine Montbertrand as Birdie to be the most intriguing, giving surprising depth to what initially seems to be a stock character. In a similar vein, Erin Partin as Alexandra believably matured over the course of the play. I noticed myself dismissing her as an over-eager character in the first act, and later reflecting on how she is left alone at the end as the roles shift. This isn’t meant to forget Elizabeth Helfin’s notable work as Regina, with an impervious air about her and clear command of her scenes.
On a side note, all of the Rep company members are pictured in the program “as their real selves” in a pleasingly informal group portrait that made me recall British theatre programs with their snapshots of rehearsals in action and/or the cast and crew hanging out at the bar, defining ensemble.
I’ll definitely be back in the audience next month when the Rep brings in Noises Off.