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NY Theater Reviews

FAMILY STRUGGLES

By SANDY MACDONALD

Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon alternate lead roles in this sturdy revival.

It has become something of a parlor game, or at minimum dinner-party fodder: Which Foxes should you see? Would you rather witness Laura Linney or Cynthia Nixon as the cold-blooded, avaricious Regina, victim to the stultifying sexism of the deep South circa 1900?

Short answer: Go twice, so that you can savor Nixon in both roles. Linney is excellent as the lead. She shines as if born to the alpha role, allowing no doubt that this ambitious matron could soon have Chicago’s high society eating out of her hand. Nixon, in contrast, looks pinched and past her prime, such that Regina’s social-climbing aspirations read like the fantasies of shelved wannabe. You also need to see Nixon as the cowed and battered ex-deb Birdie, whose residual joie de vivre bubbles up only in the company of her niece, Alexandra (unprepossessing Francesca Carpanini). Birdie trembles anticipatorily in the mere presence of her closet brute of a husband (Darren Goldstein, subtle and all the scarier).

Richard Thomas serves as a solid fulcrum for the alternating actresses. His wheelchair-bound Horace comes across as no saint. What, other than essential mean-spiritedness and the lust for revenge, would prompt this invalid to scheme, at the very threshold of death, how to humiliate and further constrain his cold-shouldering wife?

Director Daniel Sullivan has crafted a sturdy revival of this indefatigable drama, whose insights into intrafamilial struggles – financial, emotional, and hybrids thereof – remain as relevant as ever.