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Classic drama opens at Richey


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2001

It isn't often a community theater will tackle a serious drama. After all, the big, happy Broadway musicals and the laugh-a-minute comedies are the shows that tend to bring in the crowds.

Still, there are many theater patrons who enjoy serious dramas and, happy to say, there are a few community theater boards that will put these plays in their season lineups.

Richey Suncoast Theatre is among those few.

The theater's current production of Lillian Hellman's 1939 classic, The Little Foxes, will continue weekends through April 22.

Set at the turn of the 20th century, it's the story of a decaying Southern family's greed and manipulation. The drama was made into an Academy Award-nominated movie in 1941 starring Bette Davis.

The local production is being directed by Dick Poole, who recently directed The King and I at Francis Wilson Playhouse in Clearwater and is scheduled to direct A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Richey Suncoast in May.

"People think of me as a musical director, but I have to do a drama once a year," Poole said. "I have to get it out of my system."

In The Little Foxes, the wickedly clever Regina Hubbard Giddens (Noni White) learns that her brothers, the scheming Ben (Mike Jurgensen) and the cruel Oscar Hubbard (Rob Glidden), need about $75,000 to finish building a cotton mill. The brothers hope to get the money from Regina's husband, Horace Giddens (Larry Johnson), who despises them.

Oscar convinces his sniveling son Leo (Justin Sargent), who works at Horace's bank, to "borrow" the money from Horace's safe-deposit box. Horace discovers the theft, but agrees not to press charges against his brothers-in-law. His wife, Regina, though, sees the theft as a way to blackmail her brothers into giving her a larger portion of the cotton mill when the ailing Horace dies and leaves his estate to her.

The deceptions and lies result in tragedy for all concerned, including Oscar's unhappy wife Birdie (Linda Fajvan) and Alexandra (Miranda Griffin), Regina and Horace's frail and wistful daughter.

"I have some of the best actors in the area in this production," Poole said. Ms. White, a drama coach and frequent play director, was Eleanor in Lion in Winter and Kate in Taming of the Shrew at other venues. Ms. Fajvan won accolades for her performances as Constanza in Amadeus, Alais in Lion in Winter and Titania in Midsummer Night's Dream. Glidden has played Stanley in Streetcar Named Desire and had prominent roles in productions at Stageworks in Tampa and at Richey Suncoast.

Jurgensen played the title role in Mister Roberts and supporting roles in Becket, Assassins and Grapes of Wrath. Sargent has been in Oliver, Call Me Madam andMidsummer Night's Dream at Richey Suncoast. Johnson was in Madam, Dream and Norman Rockwell. Ms. Griffin had the title role in Gypsy and was in Riders to the Sea and They're Playing Our Song at Stage West Community Playhouse.

Rounding out the cast are Lanny Freeman (Follies, Company, Evita) as Mr. Marshall and, as the Giddenses' servants, Matt Mathews as Cal and Jeanne Johnson as Addie. Mathews has been in Follies, Madam and Sound of Music. Ms. Johnson was in Follies and the movie Grumpy Old Men. "This play has a lot of dialogue," Poole said. "It's a play you have to pay attention to in order to follow everything. But I consider it an American classic, up there with Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie."

At a glance

WHAT: The Little Foxes

WHERE: Richey Suncoast Theatre, 6237 Grand Blvd., New Port Richey

WHEN: Thursday and weekends through April 22. Performances are at 8 p.m., except Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

TICKETS: $8 for adults, $4 for students.

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