Rooted in the taut, naturalistic style of D.H. Lawrence’s novella, Allan Miller’s script for “The Fox” retains the intensity of feeling, psychological insight and vivid evocation of nature found in the original work.
In “The Fox,” Lawrence rebels against Anglo-Saxon Puritanism and the chauvinist principles of post-Victorian England as he tells of two women who break away from societal convention and take up residence in a rural setting.
The older, genteel Jill (Pat Destro) manages the domestic aspects of the household, while the tomboyish, vulnerable Nellie (Anamyn Turowski) strives, with dubious success, to save the farm from ruin. Their evenings tick peacefully by, with Jill doing needlework or playing the autoharp and Nellie painting porcelain.
This idyllic existence shatters with the arrival of Henry (Bill Brochtrup), a young soldier who returns looking for his grandfather, the deceased former owner of the farm.
He brims with boyish charm, happily attending to the “man’s work” of running the farm in exchange for a place to stay until he leaves for Canada. He even rids the women of a fox that has been raiding the hen house, but when Henry has the gun in his hands, his underlying need to control the situation begins to surface.
While the comparison between Henry and the rogue fox may not be particularly subtle, it is nonetheless effective. As the play progresses, Henry succeeds in bending Nellie to his will by securing her promise of marriage. The story’s devastating climax exemplifies Lawrence’s belief that society suffocates all that is natural in man.
Bypassing the inconsistencies in the cast’s accents, the actors perform ably, with deeply founded naturalism. As an ensemble they resist affectation, building and forming their characters layer by layer in response to the dramatic action.
When the explosive final scene occurs, it is plausible, thanks to the foundation laid by director Dave Higgins and his top-drawer cast.
Scott Storey creates what may be the most aesthetic set to be seen in a Waiver production in years. His English cabin interior, enhanced by Ray Thompson’s lighting design, invites the audience to curl up in front of the fire.
Carol Koenig’s dulcimer music emphasizes the mysticism of nature, another prevalent theme in Lawrence’s writing.