Sunday, June 6, 2010

Off Off Broadway: Another Part of the Forest

The Peccadillo Theater Company, whose expressed mission is "the rediscovery of classic American theater," has mounted an ambitious production of Another Part of the Forest, Lillian Hellman's infrequently revived prequel to her much better known The Little Foxes. Most off off Broadway theater groups have modest aspirations - but not Peccadillo, and for that they certainly are to be admired. With a highly professional and relatively large cast of thirteen and a well-designed and somewhat elaborate set, this two-and-a-half hour long production represents an ambitious undertaking for an off off Broadway company. The company deserves accolades for those efforts but, unfortunately, those efforts have not been well rewarded. Not that there is anything really wrong with this production but there is nothing especially memorable about it either. The entire cast performs competently but none of the individual performances truly soar.

The play revolves around the dysfunctional (and rather detestable) Hubbard family, living in Alabama in 1880. The patriarch of the family, Marcus Hubbard (Sherman Howard), a wealthy self-made war profiteer whose amorality borders on sociopathy, exploits his sons and mentally abuses his wife. His religiously obsessed wife, Lavinia (Elizabeth Norment) is far more concerned with the school she dreams of building some day for "poor colored children" than she is for the welfare of her own family. Their Machiavellian elder son, Benjamin (Matthew Floyd Miller) is as cruel and unfeeling toward his father as his father is to the rest of the world. Their whore-besotted younger son, Oscar (Ben Curtis) is a racist fool. And their daughter, Regina (Stephanie Wright Thompson), a sexual manipulator, may or may not have entered into an incestuous relationship with her father, with or without her mother's knowledge.

In short, an unlikeable bunch across the board and that, perhaps, is part of the play's problem: there are no good guys to root for. If Marcus or Lavinia or Ben or Oscar or Regina end up suffering at the hands of one of their relatives (or at the hands of some similarly unlikeable character in the play outside of their own immediate family), you might consider it their just due and take satisfaction in that. But if any such suffering results in unwarranted benefits accruing to some equally detestable character, there is little overall pleasure to be gained by the playgoer from the entire episode.

This may be an interesting play for you to see as an historical exercise if you are interested in the contextualization of Lillian Hellman's much more important play, The Little Foxes. But as a theatrical experience in and of itself, I would not recommend it.

No comments:

Post a Comment