"Give me a hit, fellas ... a hit!" is the name of the game is the laugh out loud, raucous comedy MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS by Ron Hutchinson. In 1939, Hollywood was abuzz with rumor and speculation when legendary producer David O. Selznick shut down production on his new film Gone with the Wind. The screenplay was just not working. So, locked in a room for five days straight, Selznick, along with famed screenwriter Ben Hecht and formidable director Victor Fleming, labored over a new screenplay for what would become one of the greatest epic films of all time. Moonlight and Magnolias is loosely based on this factual series of events (what really happened behind those closed doors...?)
The play essentially deals with the constant power and ego struggles of who is more important in the filmmaking process - the producer, the screenwriter, or the director? It was interesting to see the concept of the "Jewish agenda" being brought up over and over again. In this context, it serves as a reminder that during this period in history, even with everything going on in egocentric Hollywood, there was indeed a war looming.
While the hysteria onstage seemed a bit over the top at times, it was quite amusing to watch. It felt like a cross between vaudeville and the 3 Stooges (especially during the slap bit). I loved the slow, inevitable dismantling and trashing of the set (the peanut shells on the floor reminded me of a bar room), symbolically illustrating the three men's slow descent into egomaniacal madness. I just felt sorry for whoever had to clean up that mess every night!
Robert Kramer is impressive as the hysterical producer Selznick. He gives his character such broad range and his literal 10-minute onstage freeze is truly remarkable. Bob Leggett as script doctor Hecht and Don DeVeux as film director Fleming also took their respective comedic roles by the reins and did an excellent job conveying not only the external battle of creative wills, but also the internal conflict each experienced during those five fateful days. Director Luke Allen Terry has assembled some outstanding talent to fill these physically demanding roles and has directed them with style.
The set, designed by Drew Kowalkowski, establishes the era and pre-war tone with simple touches like (now) vintage movie posters pinned to the walls and strategically placed props like a vintage typewriter that we wouldn't normally see in a contemporary setting are a great way to communicate time and space and, with the limited stage dimensions at Vintage Theatre, these touches become almost like characters themselves, supporting the lead players as the story unfolds.
As delightful as I found the production, with the many references to what we would now categorize as "old-time" movies, some audiences - mainly those in younger demographics - may be lost as to the relevancy of the films mentioned throughout the show. Audiences of a particular (older) generation, or hardcore movie buffs who know their film history, will love this play. But no matter what, the madcap Moonlight and Magnolias is a fun peek into film history and the strange, often hilarious, personality dynamics of joint creative processes.
So, "tomorrow is another day!" and creative collaboration can be hard, but MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS is a top-notch collaborative production about, well, one of Hollywood's most revered collaborative productions, and definitely worth seeing! MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS is playing now through July 31st at Vintage Theatre in Denver. For tickets or information, contact the box office at 303-839-1361 or visit them online at www.vintagetheatreproductions.com.
Photo Credit: Ellen Nelson
PIPPIN vs. JEKYLL & HYDE for Best Revival of a Musical and More...
Past Articles by This Author:
Michael Mulhern has lived in Denver and been active in it's theater scene for over 10 years. He is originally from Wiesbaden, Germany and graduated with a BFA in Theater Performance from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Currently he performs in one to two shows a year and is a proud member of the Denver Gay Men's Chorus. Some of Michael's favorite performances include - Lend Me a Tenor, Guys and Dolls, The Shadow Box, Buried Child, and Jeffrey. He is proud to represent Denver and it's growing theater community on BroadwayWorld.com!|
More Articles by This Author...