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The Moviegoer

At the Colonial Theatre

By L. L.

That a play can be as great and yet as revolting as "The Little Foxes" is to the credit of Miss Lillian Hellman and a cast which wrung the last ounce of conviction from her lines. It is a bitter and disillusioning play with hardly a note of hope at the end. But it is a play whose construction is hard and compact, whose story never wanders, whose characters are so chiselled that they hurt the conscience. Tallulah Bankhead, Patricia Collinge, Charles Dingle and the rest are masters of every line and motion their parts could not be conceived in the hands of others.

"The Little Foxes" is the best play this reviewer has seen not only in this but in many seasons. Yet it is a play based completely on the evil in human nature, a story of degeneration in a Southern family bent only on money and the power it brings. Like those who have slammed the covers of Baudclaire, many will claim that a play can not be great and still disgust by its ugliness. Its attraction is the attraction of evil. Its entertainment is that of waiting and hoping for good. And therein is the great artistry of Miss Hellman. "The Little Foxes" is brutal and overpowering. It forces submission. Only as the first shock wears off and the nasty details fade away does the immensity of the stated truth begin to emerge. That is Miss Hellman's real message of hope. The brittle clearness of reality--the strength to examine life and admit some of its fallacies--is an immense satisfaction.

Miss Hellman has increased the ugliness of the play by chiselling each character to the bone. One or two incidents seemed a little more overwhelming than they had to be. Tallulah Bankhead, hungering for the fruits of wealth and waiting for her husband to die, performs to perfection the subtle shifting between cajolery and tyranny. Her two brothers whose ruthlessness is matched only by hers are done to a turn by Charles Dingle and Carl Benton Reid. Overcoming a tendency to over-act at first, Patricia Collinge is at the end the most convincing (if that is possible) of them all: her last scene where her memories of plantation youth contrast bitterly with her present drunkenness is an autobiography by itself. Each of the little foxes is perfect; moulded together by Lillian Hellman they make an extraordinary play.

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