Another Part of the Forest
Eclipse Theatre

Highly recommended - Chgo Sun Times
Nominated 8 Jefferson Awards

 

"The Hubbard clan--that delicious nest of vipers synonymous with galloping greed and elaborate treachery--was originally unleashed in The Little Foxes, Lillian Hellman's 1939 play" - Chicago Reader

 

Year 2000 Most Notable Productions - Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun Times - ... Nick Bowling (the Eclipse Theatre revival of Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest) at Chopin Studio Theatre


10/23/00 - 12/7/00


“The Hubbard clan--that delicious nest of vipers synonymous with galloping greed and elaborate treachery--was originally unleashed in The Little Foxes, Lillian Hellman's 1939 play. Its prequel, Another Part of the Forest, was written seven years later and reveals how the Hubbards got so vile.

Hellman locates her predators in the postbellum south (20 years before The Little Foxes), where patriarch Marcus is loathed by his neighbors for war profiteering and treason. In a hostile family takeover, son Benjamin supplants his father and reduces his brother Oscar and sister Regina to dependents. The double crosses are less ingenious than those in the earlier play, but the fascination remains: this family is held together not by love but by its members' zest for thwarting one another's happiness. Soapy and rife with tabloid psychology (Regina betrays a sinister Electra complex), the play is nasty fun.

The Dixie dynasty is unashamedly ugly in Nick Bowling's crackling staging. Dana Green's spitfire Regina recalls the young Bette Davis, and Nicole Burchfield's period gowns conceal none of the character's weapons. Regina is matched in malice by Gary Simmers's unctuous Benjamin, Tom McElroy's hard-hearted Marcus, and Kevin Scott's luxuriously mediocre Oscar. Among the decent characters are Jenny McKnight's fragile aristocrat Birdie, clearly anticipating the dithering eccentric to come, and Ann Wakefield's addlepated mother, who breaks your heart as her mind snaps”
- Lawrence Bommer, Chicago Reader November 24, 2000

"Lillian Hellman's "The Little Foxes," her 1939 drama following the unscrupulous Southern clan the Hubbards, as they grovel for control of the family fortune at the turn of the 20th Century, is almost as widely known as "Gone With the Wind." But rarely do audiences have the opportunity to dig into the origins of the Hubbard family's treachery so stingingly documented in Hellman's rarely seen prequel, "Another Part of the Forest." Eclipse Theatre Company concludes its season devoted to Hellman with a savagely seductive production of this 1946 play, which takes place 20 years before "The Little Foxes," during the South's tumultuous Reconstruction period.

We get a glimpse into the ruthlessly self-interested Regina Hubbard, whose plans to marry her soldier-lover John Bagtry get thwarted by her scheming brother Benjamin. John's fragile sister, Birdie Bagtry, hints at the nervous eccentricities that magnify after she is forever indebted to Benjamin.

Hellman, a genius at softly blending her leftist political views with humane stories, brings to light one family's brutal battle for self-preservation at all costs. Based on the writer's own greedy New Orleans relatives, both "Another Part of the Forest" and "The Little Foxes" reveal the hypocrisy of individuals who spew venom while donning white gloves.

But beyond their sordid soap-opera plots, these works show the incisive observations of a literary craftswoman who carves every dimension of the human condition into these full-bodied characters.

In "Another Part of the Forest," patriarch Marcus Hubbard, who made his fortune through unspeakable deals with the enemy during the Civil War, is at war over money with his three grown children: the conniving Benjamin, the foolish Oscar and the vain Regina. Helping to turn the tables on the smug Marcus is his mentally unbalanced wife, Lavinia, whose disclosure of a barbaric secret places absolute power in the hands of Benjamin. Director Nick Bowling, one of the city's most insightful artists, has assembled a magnificent cast committed to each character's complex disposition.

No one resorts to melodramatic pining or bombastic grandeur -- easy traps in a work soaked in intrigue and vitriol. Bowling unveils a blissfully torrid and futile world where the scoundrels spark more pity than hatred.

Design virtuoso Kevin Hagan created a long and narrow boxed-in stage lined with musty paintings in Chopin Theatre's downstairs studio. The actors appear to be crushed by their museumlike surroundings. The Hubbards are indeed prisoners of their own excesses. In a staging so rich in breathtaking performances, it's difficult to single out any one artist, but Jenny McKnight's gently tragic Birdie balances most convincingly on a precipice separating honesty from mad greed. Ann Wakefield's Lavinia maintains a steadfastness beneath her distracted gentility; Gary Simmers' Benjamin remains a tantalizing presence despite his diabolical nature; and Dana Green's selfish Regina and Christian Kohn's embittered John smolder with unfulfilled passion”
- Lucia Mauro, Chicago Tribune Nov 29, 2000



“Continuing Eclipse's all-Lillian Hellman season when it opens Saturday, this "prequel" to her famous "The Little Foxes" (superbly revived last year by Court Theatre) depicts the rapacious Hubbard clan in their first efforts to rip off their Dixie neighbors. Every bit as nasty and funny as "Foxes," this dysfunctional family saga is set 20 years earlier. According to director Nick Bowling, "The play is like a game of `King of the Hill,' exhilarating and dangerous, with alliance and backstabbing and everyone willing to sell each other out in order to be King" Lawrence Bommer, Chicago Tribune Nov 17, 2000

"Nick Bowling's airtight, fire-and-ice staging is flawless…every actor excels…a hidden treasure…" Chicago Sun Times

 

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Author
Lillian Helman

Director
Nick Bowling

Performers
Charles Bernstein, Dana Green, Kevin Kenneally, Jennifer Kern, Christian Kohn, Leonard Kraft, Richard Lee, Tom McElroy,Jenny McKnight, Kevin Scott, Gary Simmers, Tommy Turner, Ann Wakefield

Production
Kevin Hagan, Missy Guisinger, Nicole Burchfield, Cecil Averett, Josh Horvath, Nat Swift

Tags: Theater, American, 2000