Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes”, presented by Lyric Stage. Bravo to the Lyric for taking on Lillian Hellman, who doesn’t get produced enough anymore. And what a taking on it was. From Janie E. Howland’s set design to Gail Astrid Buckley’s costumes to the first-rate ensemble acting of this excellent cast, “The Little Foxes” was one of the more engrossing shows of 2019. High stakes and hidden motives were well played by all, but I have to give a special shoutout to Anne Gottlieb, who somehow managed to make me empathize a bit with her, despite some heinous behavior.
Lyric Stages’ “Little Shop of Horrors” – This one may not have the emotional weight of the other musical favorites on the list, but it was easily the most fun musical of the year on a mid-size stage (“Six” was a blast over at the A.R.T. too). Rachel Bertone and her creative team worked their magic again in the intimate setting of the Lyric, accentuating thecomic ingenuity of this underrated musical and making the most of its rockin’ score, much of which is delivered/augmented by the dynamite “Greek chorus” girl group featuring Crystal (Lovely Hoffman), Ronnette (Carla Martinez), and Chiffon (Pier Lamia Porter).Katrina Z Pavao killed in the role of Audrey, both comically and vocally, in what one hopes is a breakthrough role.
Lyric Stage’s“TheLittle Foxes” – Most years, there is at least one production of a play or musical that feels more like a theatrical achievement than simple entertainment, and in 2019 it was the Lyric Stage’s masterful staging of the Lillian Hellman classic. Superbly directed by Scott Edmiston, with a beautifully detailed set by Jane E. Howland in the intimate space of the Lyric, this portrait of a wealthy but soulless Southern family was a stunning reminder of the effect that the pursuit of money and power has on ethics and morals. The entire cast was exceptional, and nine months later I can still see and feel the horrifying demoralization experienced by Birdie, the alcoholic sister-in-law played so despairingly well by Amelia Broome. It may well have been the year’s best supporting performance – on any stage.
In September, just a few months after Katrina Z Pavao received her MFA from Boston Conservatory at Berklee, she stole the show as flower-shop clerk Audrey in “Little Shop of Horrors’’ at Lyric Stage Company of Boston. The poignantly yearning quality Pavao, 25, brought to the character culminated in her heart-piercing, you-could-hear-a-pin-drop rendition of “Somewhere That’s Green.’’
This 2016 play, a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, marked an impressive dramaturgical debut by writer Sarah DeLappe, who used her youthful experience on a girls’ soccer team to create a microcosm of female adolescence. In the playwright’s words, the work is “a portrait of teenage girls as human beings” that, in the Lyric staging, proved a stretching, kicking, jumping-jacking whole and the sum of its idiosyncratic parts. Taking the form of a series of chatty warm-ups by the titular team, neatly packed into the 90 minutes allotted a soccer match, the play features random, overlapping dialogue that pings around faster than even the most deftly propelled ball. But what is most striking about it, even if you don’t catch every word amid the shifting alliances and butt kicks, is that it takes its nine strong, budding personalities seriously even as it lays out the near-comic cacophony in their heads — fed by parents, politics, schoolwork, social media and a lifetime of shared pop-cultural references. A. Nora Long was at the helm of the fast-moving, high-prancing production set on an AstroTurf slope surrounded by protective netting. And the nine Wolves, most portrayed by recent graduates of respected actor-training programs, were convincing in both their ferocity as a huddled, howling pack and their vulnerabilities as individuals bravely groping toward adulthood.
Director Scott Edmiston assembled a superb cast – including Anne Gottlieb as manipulative Southern matron Regina, Remo Airaldi as her morally bankrupt brother Ben, and Amelia Broome as her kindhearted, heartbreaking sister-in-law Birdie – for a perfectly wrought production of the 1939 Lillian Hellman classic that is destined to be talked about for years to come.
The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman, staged by Lyric Stage Company, Boston. Scott Edmiston directed this blemish-free production starring the sublime Anne Gottlieb as Regina Giddens, who, circa 1900, engages in psychological warfare to reclaim her share of the American dream. Hellman planned to write a trilogy about this pernicious Southern family, but completed only two entries. Her prequel, Another Part of the Forest, hasn’t been performed in Boston in years (read: decades). The Lyric Stage production of Foxes was a critical and financial success. Will someone conscript Edmiston (and cast) to stage the Hellman prequel in 2020?