Antaeus’ “Little Foxes” Are Irresistibly Cunning

Review by Lucy Houlihan

The Little Foxes at Antaeus Theatre is stunning in both its appearance and its execution, and powerfully kicks off the Glendale Theatre’s new season. From the set, to the acting, to the costumes, this production gives an updated and captivating take on Lillian Hellman’s Post-reconstructionist Southern drama.

Rob Nagle, Deborah Puette, Timothy Adam Venable, Mike McShane, Calvin Picou, Jocelyn Towne

The extraordinary set (designed by John Iacovelli) is covered in perfectly ostentatious details: from sculptures of lounging women to black marble columns. However, the thing that draws the eye most intensely is the bright blue, velvet cameo back sofa. It is this extravagance, this garishness that drives the story of the Hubbards in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes.

The sofa acts as a center for the action and the emotion of the room, Cameron Watson’s direction ensures the characters circle the grandiosity while scheming with and against each other. While the Hubbard siblings each grasp for the wealth they believe they deserve, they use the sofa to stoke their fires, a gorgeous reminder of a “by-any-means-necessary” itinerary.

Jocelyn Towne and Deborah Puette

Deborah Puette plays the brilliant and severe Regina Hubbard Giddens, who uses the sofa to trap her family where she wants them, a spider in a web full of seats. Her husband (John DeMita) and her brothers (Mike McShane and Rob Nagle) are at her whims, try as they might to stay ahead.

Jocelyn Towne’s remarkable performance as Regina’s sister-in-law and foil, Birdie,  is honest and captivating in its frenzied victimhood. Judy Louise Johnson shines in her kindness and poise as Regina’s black maid, whose presence in the script both solidifies the play in its 1900s setting and draws attention to the racial issues still present in America today. Kristin Couture is powerful as the the young daughter, who holds onto the hope of escaping and standing up to the locusts “who eat the earth and eat all the people on it.”

John DeMita and Judy Louise Johnson

The Little Foxes is written with the women at the forefront, and Puette, Towne, Louise Johnson, and Couture certainly stand their ground and provide a compelling, poignant view of feminism both then and now. The acting on all sides is superb, and Watson’s direction shows deep knowledge and reverence to Hellman’s characters and her story.

Anteaeus Theatre’s production is designed and performed to perfection, an enchanting two-and-a-half hours that should not be missed.

Where: Antaeus Theatre Company

Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center

110 E. Broadway

Glendale, CA 91205

When: opens Oct. 25 and runs through Dec. 10.

How much: $35

Photos by: Geoffrey Wade Photography

antaeus.org

Pure Confidence Takes Us Back To A Complicated Chapter In America’s Past

Review by Peter Foldy

It’s perhaps a little known fact that prior to the Civil War, black jockeys dominated the sport of horse racing. Pure Confidence by Carlyle Brown explores that world in Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble’s West Coast Premiere of a powerful and multi layered tale that explores the complicated relationship between master and slave.

Simon Cato (Armond Edward Dorsey) is a cocky, confident and most winning jockey owned by two children who have inherited him. Through their lawyer, they lease Simon to Colonel Wiley Johnson (William Salyers) — a man Simon rides and wins for. The colonel’s horse is also the title of this play; Pure Confidence.

Simon and the colonel have an understanding, a friendship of sorts, and the colonel and his wife begin to think of their jockey and rented slave as a distant family member. Simon begs the colonel to buy him from the children so that he in turn can buy his own freedom with money he hopes to win by racing.

The colonel’s wife, Mattie (Deborah Puette) helps Simon put his plan in motion and even allows the Simon to buy her “girl,” Caroline (Tamarra Graham) on the condition that Simon marry her. These are forward thinking, modern minded people who are certainly out of step in their class conscious, racist world.

The first act sees Simon achieve his dream. He gets his freedom, but by the second act Simon’s fortunes have changed. Injured in a racing accident, he has suffered permanent damage that prevents him from riding and now works as a bellboy for an abusive, racist hotel clerk (Eamon Hunt). His marriage to Caroline, though caring on many levels has also turned abusive. Simon vents his anger by hitting his wife.

When a newspaper reporter (Dylan John Seaton) tracks Simon 15 years later so that he can write a story about the once great jockey, we learn that it was Colonel Johnson and his wife who hired the writer to locate their former jockey.

At a touching, heart-felt reunion, these two couples, one white and powerful, the other black and struggling, try to rekindle their prior relationship in the new age of Reconstruction, but they are thwarted by the social climate, ultimately having to acknowledge that it is not a level playing field, and a legitimate friendship between them is never to be.

Staged in a black box at the Sacred Fools Theatre, this production is most impressive.  Director, Marya Mazor has crafted a poignant piece that feels as real as it is disturbing.

The set design by Tom Buderwitz and clever use of film and photo projections from Nicholas Santiago help give Pure Confidence a slick, almost off-Broadway feel. Kudos to Mylette Nora for her costume design that looks and feels so authentic. But it is the acting that makes this play well worth seeing. Armond Edward Dorsey is exceptional as the ambitious Simon. William Salyers ably unfolds Colonel’s mindset, letting us see the complexities of his character.

Tamarra Graham asCaroline” is both sensitive and fragile, but strong when she needs to be, while Deborah Puette as the colonel’s wife convincingly portrays a modern thinking woman from a troubled time.

The rest of the cast, Eamon Hunt and Dylan John Seaton are both solid in their respective roles.

Pure Confidence is a thought provoking drama that compels as it takes us back to an ugly chapter in America’s past. Its message is not only powerful – it may also move you to tears.

Where: Sacred Fools
1076 Lillian Way
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Schedule: 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, 3pm Sundays
Closing: April 30, 2017

For reservations call (323) 960-7745 or online at www.lower-depth.com/on-stage

Tickets: $25 – $34

Production photos by: Ed Krieger