Dysfunction at Its Finest: NorthEast Theatre Ensemble Brings “The Little Foxes” to the Ten Broeck Mansion

Need to escape from your feuding family after Thanksgiving? Head over to the Ten Broeck Mansion and spend a few hours with the backstabbing, grasping and ambitious Hubbard family in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes. Your family may look a whole lot saner by comparison!

If, like me, you are fully sated with Christmas carols, nutcrackers and visits to Santaland, NorthEast Theatre Ensemble has something completely different for you — a site-specific production of Hellman’s 1939 classic that captures the story of a Southern family’s selfish pursuit of the American Dream. It ends up destroying them, and those they love.

Not only is the central action of the play presented in intimate proximity, but servants listen at the doors and voices from other rooms drift in. “We really want people who come to see and be a part of this story,” NETE Artistic Director Janet Hurley Kimlicko explained. “In the Mansion the play becomes an intimate, even voyeuristic experience.”

“It wasn’t until I saw the photos taken at our first full dress rehearsal that I realized how amazing this looks,” said Tony Pallone, the actor playing Horace Giddens. “This isn’t a set. It’s a real house.”

“We were able to pull costumes from many different locations, and then Shae Fitzgerald pulled everything together to make everyone look amazing,” Kimlicko added. “And she brought in her sister Bonnie, a theatre professional from Boston, to do the hair. It really completes the look.”

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This is the fifth production for the two-year-old company. “After staging a few shows at an area theater, we wanted to branch out,” Kimlicko said. As it happened, she had crossed professional paths frequently with director Krysta Dennis, who had just joined the board of the Albany County Historical Society based at the Ten Broeck Mansion. Kimlicko had been involved with Dennis’ production of Votes for Women at the Mansion last March, and they both agreed The Little Foxes would be a perfect fit for the space.

“When the idea of staging The Little Foxes came up I thought, who do I want to direct? Wait, I know!“ Kimlicko exclaimed. “So I approached Krysta. We are very much on the same page and work very well together.”

A graduate of Colonie Central High School, Dr. Dennis holds her BA and MA in French and theatre from the University of Notre Dame; two doctorates in drama, one from the Sorbonne in Paris and one from the University of Kent in the UK; and a Diplome de Comedien in physical theatre from the Ecole Internationale de Theatre Jacques Lecoq. She is a lecturer in Creative Arts at Siena College and has been busy with many projects in the Capital Region.

Once America’s premiere — and at times only — professionally-produced female playwright, Hellman’s work is not produced as frequently nowadays.

“Lillian Hellman was way ahead of her time, writing with a sensibility that is entirely modern,” Pallone explained. “She offers a removed perspective on what was going on in her lifetime — with enough detachment to comment on it, and enough attachment to it to make it real.”

“The text is amazing, horrifying, revealing. The timeliness of the misogyny is devastating,” Kimlicko added. “There are so many layers to every character in this production; we spent hours unpeeling each person’s motivations.”

“The power dynamics in the play intrigue me as an actor,” Pallone added. “And there are still families doing the same things today. This is in no way light entertainment.”

“Krysta brought the issue of race more to the fore,” Kimlicko said. “In the script, the servants are very much in the background. Krysta didn’t give them more lines, but used the space to allow them to be seen going about their work — while keeping tabs on the family machinations through open doors.”

Following the November 19 matinee, there was a well-received panel discussion of race and servitude in the context of both the production’s turn-of-the-century setting and today. The panel featured Marisa Williamson, Matthew Kirk, Mary Liz Stewart, Paul Stewart, and Mike Lake.

Equity actors Pallone and Kimlicko are appearing in The Little Foxes under the auspices of Actors’ Equity Association’s Members’ Project Code (MPC). “This special contract is designed for AEA actors who want to do a showcase of their work,” Pallone explained. “A group of local Equity actors formed the Upstate Equity Actors Alliance (UEAA) a few years ago to explore our options as working professionals. We became an official liaison to the New York City headquarters, which allows us to use the MPC to showcase our work in productions like this. This wasn’t possible before UEAA.”

The MPC gives professional actors the option to agree to work for less money than a standard Equity contract would dictate — or even for no money at all. But “NorthEast Theatre Ensemble is committed to paying our artists,” Kimlicko said. “I don’t buy into this BS that artists should work just for the joy of being on the stage. Too many people work very, very hard for nothing. We value our artists and their time. I am proud to say that, in every show, I have been able to compensate our people at least something.”

“This is a wonderful show and a wonderful creative group working in a unique space,” added Pallone. “I am honored to be part of The Little Foxes.”

NorthEast Theatre Ensemble presents The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman, directed by Dr. Krysta A. Dennis, at the Ten Broeck Mansion November 17-25, 2017. Assistant Director Suzanna Bornn; costume design by Shae Fitzgerald. Cast: Marquis Heath as Cal; Karen Christina Jones as Addie; Parker Cross as Oscar Hubbard; Steven O’Connor as Ben Hubbard; Patrick Quinn as Mr. Marshall, Amy L. Kerr as Regina Giddens; Molly Waters as Alexandra Giddens; Nick Muscatiello as Leo Hubbard; Janet Hurley Kimlicko as Birdie; and Tony Pallone as Horace Giddens.

Performances Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 2:00 & 7:30 pm, and Sundays at 3 pm at the Ten Broeck Mansion, 9 Ten Broeck Place in Albany, NY. Performance runs approximately 2.5 hours, with one intermission. Tickets $20, Students/Seniors $12. Seating is limited; patrons without tickets or reservations are not guaranteed seating. For further information, call 518-526-9170, e-mail northeasttheatreensemble@gmail.com or visit http://sbornn.wixsite.com/nete.

Ticket link: https://www.artful.ly/store/events/13799

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