April 23, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

The Court Theatre continues its rotating repertory tradition with wildly divergent plays by David Hirson and Lillian Hellman, both directed by Charles Newell. Hirson’s La Bete — inspired by Moliere’s life and 17th century-masterpiece The Misanthrope, and which had a short run on Broadway in 1991 — is a rowdy, stylized probing of the metaphysical nature of art, a period French farce employing clever and sometimes bawdy rhymed couplets. In a daring gender-bending turn, Barbara Robertson launches into the role of Valere, a swaggering 17th-century male street performer, with a magnificently manic 25-minute monologue. The same company, including a re-feminized Robertson, does Hellman’s classic The Little Foxes even better. Starring is Hollis Resnik, who delivers a strong performance as the Southern ice queen Regina Hubbard. Robertson — this time effectively forlorn — is the defeated Birdie, who has unwittingly married into the scheming Hubbard family. Craig Spidle and John Reeger, both memorably evil, play Regina’s brothers, Oscar and Ben.
La Bete: B
The Little Foxes: A-

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