ANOTHER PART OF THE FOREST, Eclipse Theatre Company, at the Chopin Theatre. The Hubbard clan–that delicious nest of vipers synonymous with galloping greed and elaborate treachery–was originally unleashed in The Little Foxes, Lillian Hellman’s 1939 play. Its prequel, Another Part of the Forest, was written seven years later and reveals how the Hubbards got so vile.

Hellman locates her predators in the postbellum south (20 years before The Little Foxes), where patriarch Marcus is loathed by his neighbors for war profiteering and treason. In a hostile family takeover, son Benjamin supplants his father and reduces his brother Oscar and sister Regina to dependents. The double crosses are less ingenious than those in the earlier play, but the fascination remains: this family is held together not by love but by its members’ zest for thwarting one another’s happiness. Soapy and rife with tabloid psychology (Regina betrays a sinister Electra complex), the play is nasty fun.

The Dixie dynasty is unashamedly ugly in Nick Bowling’s crackling staging. Dana Green’s spitfire Regina recalls the young Bette Davis, and Nicole Burchfield’s period gowns conceal none of the character’s weapons. Regina is matched in malice by Gary Simmers’s unctuous Benjamin, Tom McElroy’s hard-hearted Marcus, and Kevin Scott’s luxuriously mediocre Oscar. Among the decent characters are Jenny McKnight’s fragile aristocrat Birdie, clearly anticipating the dithering eccentric to come, and Ann Wakefield’s addlepated mother, who breaks your heart as her mind snaps.

–Lawrence Bommer