The Little Foxes Strikes a Chord

by Bryn Booth

The rich don’t have to be subtle in Winding Road Theater’s splendid production of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes. The rich seek to consume the wealth of others while they hoard their own, and during this very polarizing time in America, this story seems more relevant than ever. 

The Little Foxes is set in a small town in Alabama in the early 1900s and circles around the very wealthy Hubbard family. While customs were changing, the vast majority of men in the early 20th century acknowledged only their sons as potential heirs; women such as Regina Hubbard Giddens, played by Cynthia Jeffery, had to seek their fortunes through less straightforward means. Regina desires wealth and power beyond what her husband Horace can give her.  With her two avaricious brothers, she seeks to undermine her husband’s authority and gain his wealth through any means possible. At times the energy seemed to dissipate in this production and the story moved along slowly, but it quickly picked up speed as we dig further into the scandals of the Hubbard family.

Director Glen Coffman clearly wants to immerse us into the world of the aristocratic south, and therefore the ambiance is especially significant. This was accomplished by a minimal yet impressive set with a large, painted staircase and a brightly shining chandelier. The furniture, green velvet adorned with yellow fringe, is cleverly reminiscent of Scarlett O’Hara’s infamous gown made of drapes. The effect is instant. Everything is beautiful and delicate, but insidious deeds brew underneath the façade.

Cynthia Jeffery as Regina Hubbard Giddens. Photo by Creatista Photography, courtesy of Winding Road Theater.

Cynthia Jeffery as Regina Hubbard Giddens. Photo by Creatista Photography, courtesy of Winding Road Theater.

Coffman also assembled a talented cast who brought this world to life. Upon Regina Giddens’s first appearance in a lavish purple gown, it is immediately evident that she rules the household.  Purple is traditionally the color of royalty, so I tip my hat to the costumer, Marie Caprile, for making this distinction. Jeffery’s powerful presence as Regina demands the stage as well as respect from her conspiratorial brothers Oscar and Benjamin, played perfectly and mischievously by Dave Davidson and David Alexander Johnston. The two brothers, after failing to convince Regina’s husband Horace, played by a formidable Eric Rau, to invest in the construction of a cotton mill, then offer the idea of an arranged marriage between Oscar’s simple and spoiled son Leo, played by Damian Garcia, and Regina’s bright-eyed daughter Alexandra played by Morgan H. Smith. Garcia’s portrayal of Leo had an amusing “hyuck hyuck” quality and provided the show with much needed comedic relief. Smith gave a moving performance as Alexandra, transforming from naïve young girl to a dignified, intelligent woman. The household servant, Addie, portrayed by Gianbari “Debora” Deebom, proves to be more of a mother figure to Alexandra than Regina ever could be. Deebom’s performance was essential to the production as she maintained the moral authority in the Hubbard household.

I applaud Coffman’s direction because this production struck a chord with me. In the news lately, it seems we learn of more and more financial scandals and how the super-rich have used the lower class to prop themselves up while also hoarding their wealth. Regina, Oscar, and Benjamin were obvious representations of the callous attitudes held by the wealthy. When Horace is hit with a heart attack, Regina simply watches him suffer. It seemed rather poignant for a wealthy person to watch others suffer in order to serve their own agenda. Alexandra, on the other hand, represents a new generation who feels outraged and helpless in the face of such corruption. Her Uncle Benjamin defends this corruption with a sinister line “some people call that patriotism.”

Gianbari “Debora” Deebom as Addie. Photo by Creatista Photography, courtesy of Winding Road Theater.

Gianbari “Debora” Deebom as Addie. Photo by Creatista Photography, courtesy of Winding Road Theater.

It is encouraging to see a company celebrate the work of a female playwright, especially one as fierce as Lillian Hellman, who was known for her activist views. She seems to be calling audiences to action through this play. “[T]here are people who eat the earth and eat all the people on it,” Addie, the black servant, states, “…Then there are people who stand around and watch them eat it.” Hellman is commenting on the complacency of the masses towards the corruption and the power of the wealthy. They get to be corrupt, they get to be criminals, and we are made to feel powerless. Hellman is trying to reignite the fire of anger and indignation in the hearts of the common people. I highly recommend this powerful production and I am excited to see what else Winding Road will create this year.

The Little Foxes is playing Friday, Saturday and Sunday through September 15th at the Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre at The Historic Y (738 N. 5th Avenue, Tucson, AZ, 85705). Tickets are available at windingroadtheater.org. You can also contact the box office by emailing windingroadte@gmail.com or by calling (520) 401-3626. There are discounted tickets available for students, military, and senior citizens.

Logistical Challenges, Creative Surprises, and the Human Condition

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of interviews with creative decision makers and artistic directors at all of Tucson’s theatres as we look forward to the 2019-2020 season.

Exploring the human condition with Winding Road Theater Ensemble’s co-artistic director Maria Caprile.

by Leigh Moyer
Winding Road Logo

Winding Road Theater Ensemble aims to produce plays that are entertaining but outside of the box, and always speak to the human condition. The way co-artistic director of Winding Road Maria Caprile says “the human condition”, it sounds like an illness. Not one we need to get over, but one that we all share, and one that we can manage better by experiencing it together. This season at Winding Road explores life’s harder decisions, funny moments, challenges, morals, coping with loss, family dinners, and simply surviving.

This season is comprised of three mainstage productions plus the return of Eight 10s in Tucson, Winding Road’s short play festival, and three Winding Reads staged readings.

Caprile, along with co-artistic director Glen Coffman, doesn’t have a list of possible plays they want to produce in a particular season, but they do have stacks (and stacks) of plays waiting for the right time or the right cast. Sometimes everything falls perfectly into place, like with The Little Foxes. The first show of the season, opening Labor Day weekend in the Scoundrel & Scamp theater, it was too exciting an opportunity to pass up. Getting the rights to a Tony award-winning play, the chance for Coffman to direct a play he’s wanted to direct for a long time, and having the space to fully stage the production was more than reason enough to add it as the season opener. In addition to artistic direction, directing, and acting, Caprile is an extremely talented costume designer. “I’m doing the period costuming, which is always a fun challenge,” she added with excitement.

Like The Little Foxes, often they choose shows they’ve wanted to do for a while, but just as often, they’ll see something new and want to do it immediately, or think a play needs a revival in Tucson. Some of these plays get into this season, some next, some never. In her second season as co-artistic director, Caprile has gotten to know Winding Road, and, as a result, which scripts are in the spirit of Winding Road and which plays, even good plays, don’t fit the theater’s personality.

The Fantasticks

Kelly Coates, Tony Caprile, Elena Lucia Quach, Jerry James and Damian Garcia in The Fantasticks. Photo courtesy of Winding Road Theatre.

“I like those plays where the audience can look over your shoulder and into the play,” Caprile explained. “I like to blur those lines between play and audience.”
They also choose plays that not only are suitable for their ensemble cast, but that help them grow or give them opportunities they might not easily find elsewhere. Caprile explained that they have an obligation to the ensemble, as well as to talented people with whom Winding Road wants to work, so they look at a script and ask, “Do we have something for this actor or a directing opportunity for someone interested in getting into that?”. They are a community working together to bring interesting and thought-provoking theatre to Tucson and to encourage and teach newer talent skills that will help them succeed down their own winding road.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Eight 10s in Tucson. Modeled off Santa Cruz Actors’ Theater’s 8 Tens festival, Eight 10s in Tucson gives playwrights and aspiring playwrights the chance to have their story cast, directed, and brought to life on stage. It is also the chance for actors to try new roles and untested directors to wet their feet. After a huge response last year, this year, Winding Road is only accepting scripts during the month of August 2019, and only until they reach 300 total. From there, a team of volunteer readers and the artistic team at Winding Road pare down the applicants to the best and most Winding-Road-esque scripts until they’ve chosen the eight best short pieces of never-before-seen theatre to present to Tucson audiences.

Eight 10s

Morgan Smith and Maggie Geertsen in Eight 10s in Tucson. Photo courtesy of Winding Road Theatre.

And if producing eighty minutes of brand-new theatre in ten minute snapshots isn’t logistically challenging enough, this season Winding Road is all over the map. Not so much in theme — Caprile described this season as well-rounded, perhaps with an emphasis on family if you were looking for a particular connective thread — but literally. They don’t have a home stage, giving them the opportunity to put on shows not just downtown, but all over Tucson, and not just on traditional stages. “Angels Fall is a play about disparate people who all end up in a little chapel so we’re doing it in a little chapel,” Caprile explained, sounding equal parts thrilled and daunted by the challenge. “We have the chapel, but a chapel is not a theatre, so we’ll just have to figure out how to do it. It’s exciting. Those creative surprises are part of the joy of theatre. And you make it work.”

This isn’t the only production staged to challenge the director. Caprile is directing The Big Meal. Without giving too much away, this is the story of how a couple meet, simply enough, at a restaurant. It is told, however, by an ensemble of actors playing the five generations of one family it takes to tell their story. Caprile is keeping all the actors on stage. In the round. There might be a bit of madness in artistic genius.

If she had to choose one show that audiences not miss, it isn’t the trip to the chapel or the family dinner the actors aren’t excused from (not to say those aren’t well worth seeing, obviously); rather, the one she felt we all need to see is a staged reading of The Women of Lockerbie as part of the Winding Read series. Shown in the style of a Greek tragedy, this play revisits the explosion of PanAm 103 over Lockerbie in 1988. “That was so long ago and so much has happened, is this going to resonate?” Caprile said, wondering if it would be a good fit for modern audiences. “But it isn’t about the incident. It is about grief. And how this keeps happening. And how we deal with it. You can’t just ignore it. It isn’t about PanAm 103, it’s about public grief.”

In this day and age, and maybe in every age, grief is one part of the human condition that we need each other more than any other to understand, process, and, with time, overcome.

Tickets are available at WindingRoadTheater.org, $28.00 for mainstage productions (discounts may apply) and $15.00 for Winding Reads. Or you can purchase one of four season combination packages ranging from $35.00 to $125.00. Winding Road’s Box Office can be reached via email at windingroadte@gmail.com or by calling (520) 401-3626. The whole season is listed online and below.

Winding Road Theater’s 2019 – 2020 Season:

The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman
August 29 – September 15, 2019
An American classic first staged at the National Theatre in New York. Directed by the Ensemble’s Co-Artistic Director Glen Coffman, this morality drama about corruption and greed within a wealthy, early 20th century Southern family has been revived more than half a dozen times on Broadway since its premiere in 1939.

The Big Meal by Dan LeFranc
December 5 – December 22, 2019
A hilarious, expansive tale that traverses five generations of an ordinary modern family in 90 minutes. Written by Dan LeFranc, The Big Meal won the 2010 New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award and received a 2012 Lucille Lortel Award nomination for Outstanding Play. This production is directed by Co-Artistic Director Maria Caprile.

Angels Fall by Lanford Wilson
February 13 – March 1, 2020
Set in a remote part of New Mexico, six people find themselves in a small mission church, brought together by the closing of a highway due to a possible accident at a nearby nuclear facility. Brightly humorous and deeply affecting, Angels Fall becomes a parable of vocation and survival which, in exploring the lives of its characters, illuminates the human condition. This production is directed by Molly Lyons.

Eight 10s in Tucson
April 16 – April 26, 2020
Winding Road presents the second annual Eight 10s in Tucson 10-minute play festival. Eight scripts, submitted by playwrights from around the country, selected and combined to make for a unique evening of entertainment – full of comedy, drama and everything in between. “…it’s a reminder of the prodigious playwriting talent out there, the accomplished actors and directors we have here, and it exposes Tucsonans to new and exciting works.” (Kathy Allen, Arizona Daily Star)

Winding Reads:

The Wrong People Have Money by Reed McColm
Popular York University professor Martin Delancey is challenged by a wealthy consortium of investors to conduct a serious study into the feasibility of an “impossible” endeavor. The funniest play ever written about moving Greenland South.

Christmas Break by Monica Bauer
When daughter Lilly comes home from college with newfound passion, the McNally family has a big decision to make: invest in Lilly’s scheme to end world hunger or pay for life saving treatment for the family pet. Add a teenaged son and a retired monk and you’ve got all the ingredients needed for a Christmas to remember.

The Women of Lockerbie by Deborah Brevoort
A grieving mother from New Jersey roams the hills of Lockerbie, Scotland, looking for her son, lost in the crash of Pan Am 103. Loosely inspired by a true story and written in the structure of a Greek tragedy, it is a poetic drama about the triumph of love over hate.