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Moonlight & Magnolias
a Comedy
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by Ron Hutchinson

COMPANY : Centerstage North Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The Art Place - Mountain View
ID# 3846

SHOWING : May 06, 2011 - May 14, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Julie Taliaferro
David O. Selznick Jeffrey Bigger
Miss Poppenghul Leigh-Ann Campbell
Victor Fleming Kelly David Carr
Ben Hecht Jim Dailey
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

More Politics and Sausage
by Dedalus
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
4.5
(Add this one to the “It works no matter where it’s done” pigeonhole. Much of this review is copied directly from my reaction to the Alliance’s 2005 production of this play.)

People who enjoy politics and sausage (or so the old joke goes) should never watch them being made. Thanks to Ron Hutchinson’s comedy “MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS,” we can now add “People who like ‘Gone With the Wind’” to this.

FADE IN

The Studio Lot Bungalow/Office of Producer David O. Selznick.
Off-camera is trusty Gal Friday Miss Poppenghul.
Selznick and “Script Doctor” Ben Hecht are face-to-face, mid-argument.
Selznick is shocked.

Selznick: You’ve never read the book?
Hecht: I’ve never read the book.

{Insert here 105 minutes of desperation as Selznick pulls director Victor Fleming off “The Wizard of Oz” to help him and Hecht come up with a new screenplay for “Gone With the Wind,” a property only Selznick has any faith in. Add a bajillion reams of paper arranged in piles and drifts, a bushel of bananas, and enough peanuts to bankroll a Carter Presidential campaign. For flavor, add some Intelligentsia vs Mass Market commentary, some Hollywood Dishing, some goofy re-enacting, and a lot of laughs. End with four exhausted actors and one soon-to-filmed classic.}

FADE OUT

What I really liked about this play was how it used the sort of crisp dialog and pacing found in actual Ben Hecht screenplays (think “His Girl Friday”). The “serious political” bits in Act Two don’t really slow down the pace, and the attitudes of Fleming and Hecht reflect the mindset of those of us who never really liked “GWTW.” But, Selznick’s obsession and vision are no different than any other artist who has a definite goal and is willing to coerce, bribe, and bully anyone he needs to help him achieve that vision. What I liked was the tacit implication that anything can be turned into art if it comes with that kind of inner fire.

If I had to complain about anything, it would be about the character of Hecht. We are constantly told that he is Hollywood’s best “script doctor” and Selznick is obsessed with keeping him on the payroll. But we never really see him come up with any good lines or ideas. His function in the script seems to be only to take down the ideas Selznick and Fleming come up with. But, since the structure of the play is Selznick and Fleming acting out the book for Hecht’s benefit, this can, in the end, be forgiven.

Jeffrey Bigger as Selznick is absolutely dead-on in all his choices, giving one of the best performances I’ve seen from him. I believed that he was a man who could browbeat these heavy-duty collaborators, artists in their own right, to buy into his vision. This is not to downgrade the other performances. I really liked Jim Dailey’s Ben Hecht, who brought enough passionate conviction to the play that, this time, I quite forgot about the script quibble I talked about above. If Kelly David Carr brings a few too many modern mannerisms to the “man’s man” role of Victor Fleming, he more than makes up for it by being outrageously funny in the re-creation sequences. And, like Tess Malis Kincaid before her, Leigh-Ann Campbell pulls off the thankless role of Miss Poppenghul with humor and panache (yes, there do seem to be an unlimited number of line readings for “Yes, Mr. Selznick.”).

Julie Taliaferro directs her ensemble at a break-neck pace, made more strenuous by the nice multi-level set designed by herself and Chris Cerny. And John F. Parker Jr lights it all with a warmth that evokes the era and location. And, though I really enjoyed the faux-silhouette window bits from the Alliance production, I did not mind they had to be cut here (venue and budget constraints, I presume).

Yes, “Moonlight and Magnolias” is lightweight stuff, with a healthy spoonful of contemporary political commentary made palatable with a schoonerful of laughs.. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – lightweight stuff has its place, and can be invigorating when it’s done right. This one is done right!

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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Moonlit Madness
by playgoer
Saturday, May 28, 2011
4.5
Centerstage North and director Julie Taliaferro have put together a very pleasing production of "Moonlight and Madness," a what-might-have-happened story concerning producer David O. Selznick's bringing together of replacement director Victor Fleming and script doctor Ben Hecht to redo the movie script of "Gone With the Wind" after filming had already started (under George Cukor's direction). While based on a true-life circumstance, the play takes some liberties and heightens the action to bring out the inherent comedy and cabin-fever desperation of these men locked together for days to pound through a script.

The play takes as its premise that writer Ben Hecht had never read "Gone With the Wind" before being summoned to rework the film scenario. This allows Messrs. Selznick and Fleming the opportunity to act out many of the best-known scenes. The scenery-chewing performances of Jeffrey Bigger (as Selznick) and Kelly David Carr (as Fleming) go delightfully overboard in bringing Scarlett, Rhett, Prissy, and other characters to life for brief moments. The wry presence of Jim Dailey as Ben Hecht gives them ample opportunity to bounce their ideas off a somewhat resistent, liberal Zionist. The interplay of these distinct personalities adds fun and depth to the proceedings.

There is a fourth character in the show -- Selznick's eager-to-please secretary, Miss Poppenghul. Leigh-Ann Campbell brings her to life in a charming performance that loses none of her cheery professionalism over the long days and nights of the proceedings, while physically wilting before our eyes. The dishevelment of her hair ties in with the deep five o'clock (AM) shadow of Jim Dailey to show the passage of time. The physical details of the show are just right to set the era (1939) and the progressive deterioration of the room in which three men are locked together for days.

The set is elegant, with clean lines and only black curtains as the "walls." The white doors and white central window pop against the blackness, and the furniture (largely from Aaron's Rentals) adds a tasteful, upscale Hollywood look. The playing area at The Art Place is very wide and somewhat shallow, and the space is used wonderfully. Two areas spread out left and right, while steps and a platform center stage are crowned with Selznick's seemingly massive desk. It's a clever touch to put producer Selznick in a physically higher location as he lords over his film world minions.

I liked the scene-changing music too. Leroy Anderson's "The Typewriter" was perfect as the tag to the first scene, where Ben Hecht has just been told to start producing his version of the script. All the details in the show tie together to keep up the atmosphere. That's what turns a pleasant evening at the theatre into a true delight.

The performances are evenly matched, so there are no standouts -- or, rather, there are four standouts. Jeffrey Bigger's Scarlett is priceless. Kelly David Carr's multi-character birthing sequence is priceless. Jim Dailey's toss-away barbs are priceless. So too is Leigh-Ann Campbell's crisp (and later soulless) repetition of "Yes, Mr. Selznick." To put this all together so winningly, we have to thank director Julie Taliaferro. She may have had good acting talent to start with, but she has shaped the play (not one of my favorites) into a non-stop, energetically entertaining production. Kudos! [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Moonlight feels right!
by magibob
Friday, May 13, 2011
4.5
Just saw this production last night and was enchanted! Tho technically a "community theatre" production. this show plays professional!
Ms. Taliaferro makes her directorial debut like shes a seasoned pro. She cast a very talented and accomplished group of actors.
Jeffery Bigger commands the stage as David O'Selznick. As demanding and bombastic as this mogul is, Mr. Biggers also shows us why his character is as demanding as he is, how the artistic needs of the production and his character's personal demons compel him to exorcise the best out of his hires. Exceptional acting.

Mr. Carr portrays Victor Fleming as an swashbuckling rogue with demons of his own. His Errol Flynn/Clark Gable panache deliciously dissolves into slapstick comedy as the demands of the overbearing O'Selznick take their toll.

Mr. Dailey is an excellent foil to the excesses of the others. He takes a more sensible, pragmatic and dare I say moral read to his Hecht but is also quite a capable comedic actor in his own right.

Ms. Campbell's stage time is short but she capably plays the longsuffering Miss Poppenghul.

This production is well acted, well lit, well staged, and is very funny. It also makes some poignant points about the role of staying true to artistic vision as the world wakes up to the rising tide of fascism and anti-semitism in Europe and the local country club. Well done folks! Go see this show! [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

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