Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern

Moonlight And Magnolias

Gordon McConnell, Gary Marachek and Wayne LeGette
Moonlight And Magnolias is the imaginative retelling of the writing of the screenplay of Margaret Mitchell's novel Gone With The Wind. In February of 1939, famous Hollywood producer David O. Selznick tries to find the right director and writer to secure the success of his film, Gone With The Wind, to prove himself both to his peers and to his father-in-law, the great Louis B. Mayer. He summons script doctor Ben Hecht to rewrite a script which already had numerous rewrites, including one by F. Scott Fitzgerald. He also fires his popular director George Cukor and replaces him with Victor Fleming, removing Fleming from directing the last week of filming The Wizard Of Oz.

While Selznick suspends shooting of Gone With The Wind, he must continue to pay the cast and crew $50,000 per day, so time is of the essence. For the fee of $15,000 Hecht agrees to the nearly unthinkable task of rewriting the entire screenplay in five days without ever having read Margaret Mitchell's book. Selznick and Fleming act out the book's salient points, attempting to be true to Mitchell's original dialogue, while Hecht pounds out a script. This is done under no ordinary working conditions; Selznick locks the three men in his office for the five days, living only on his version of brain food - peanuts and bananas. Disagreements over character and plot points are magnified by the pressures of time and lack of sleep. Tempers flair, a blood vessel is popped, and egos are sacrificed for the greater good of the collaboration.

At the end of the five days, Selznick is pleased with what he believes is the script and the director to make Gone With The Wind a great success. Hecht feels that "no film about the Civil War will ever be successful" and remains unimpressed by Mitchell's story. Fleming is unsure enough about its box office appeal that he chooses a lump sum payment rather than a share in the film's profits as his fee. Little did they know what would arise from their efforts.

Author Ron Hutchinson writes considerable potential humor into his play in giving Fleming and Selznick the task of acting out the story line. His commentary on the Hollywood anti-Semitism of the time may be appropriate, but feels like a ploy to add weight to his script. The message driven home to Selznick by Hecht of their mutual plight is delivered in a manner that is unlikely in its disrespect toward a man of Selznick's power. The fourth character of Selznick's secretary, Miss Poppenghul, is comic but randomly one dimensional.

Actor's Playhouse uses familiar faces in their production of Moonlight And Magnolias. Stacy Schwartz makes the comedic most of Miss Poppenghul. Gordon McConnell feels right on in his interpretation of Victor Fleming. Wayne LeGette's characterization of Ben Hecht seems overly cocky for the man that is the least know of the three, and one who would depend on men such as Selznick and Mayer for future work. Gary Marachek provides a Selznick that is intensely driven and manic, and both comic and serious. Though his comic delivery was too deliberate in the first ten minutes of the show, he sailed through the rest of it. Director David Arisco may have been trying to pull a little too much of a Nathan Lane style out of Marachek in the moments where he is acting out the characters, but they are still quite funny. Marachek successfully plays the exhausting role.

The disappointment in this production is the set by Gen Seyffer. It is an uninspired, slightly upscale office that lacks glamour, style, wealth, masculinity, memorabilia, or any of the trappings one would rightfully expect of a man such as David O. Selznick. It seems as though this would have been a focal point of this production as there is only one set.

Moonlight And Magnolias had its world premiere at Chicago's Goodman Theatre in May of 2004, and went on to play at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 2005. Ron Hutchinson is also the author of Rat In The Skull, Burning Issues, Beau, Lags, and Head/Case. In addition to his stage work, he also writes for television and film. Hutchinson is the winner of an Emmy Award for Ben Kingsley's Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story.

Moonlight And Magnolias will be appearing at the Actors' Playhouse through November 12, 2006 in their Balcony Theatre. Actors' Playhouse is located at 280 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, FL. Actors' Playhouse is a nonprofit professional regional theatre hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors. The theatre has received nearly 50 Carbonell Awards, and received 32 nominations for its past 2005 - 2006 season. Actor's Playhouse produces musicals, comedies and children's theatre shows year round, and offers a full range of classes for all experience levels. Information and tickets may be obtained by contacting the theater at their box office at (305) 444-9293, or on line at

David O. Selznick: Gary Marachek*
Ben Hecht: Wayne LeGette*
Victor Fleming: Gordon McConnell*
Miss Poppenghul: Stacy Schwartz*

Director: David Arisco
Scenic Design: Gene Seyffer
Lighting Design: Patrick Tennent
Sound Design: Nathan Rausch
Costume Design: Ananda Keator
Production Stage Manager: Carl Waisanen*

* Designates member of Actors' Equity Association: the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Photo: Alberto Romeu

See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere

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