‘In the Heights’ and ‘Moonlight and Magnolias’

New Shows Open at PCPA and Rubicon Theatre

<strong>BREAKING IT DOWN:</strong> George Walker stars as Usnavi in PCPA’s production of <em>In the Heights</em>.

In the Heights: Before Lin-Manuel Miranda took over the entire world with his Broadway blockbuster Hamilton, he won a Tony Award for his lesser-known show, In the Heights. A story about growing up in the Washington Heights area of New York City, In The Heights is a contemporary musical that depicts its characters grappling with the concepts of home, community, gentrification, and how to follow an authentic, individual path through life while remaining connected to family, friends, and self-definition.

The neighborhood featured in In the Heights is home to an array of characters, including Usnavi, a young man whose parents immigrated to New York from the Dominican Republic. Orphaned as a young boy, Usnavi was raised by Abuela Claudia, the matriarch of the Washington Heights barrio. After coming into a large sum of money, Usnavi considers the idea of moving to the Dominican Republic to satisfy a lifelong yearning for his ancestral homeland. His decision to relocate is supported by Abuela Claudia, a Cuban immigrant who always dreamed of returning home, but it leaves Usnavi’s love interest, Vanessa, and his cousin Sonny feeling bereft of a piece of their own “home.” PCPA’s production of In the Heights, having just completed a run at Marian Theatre in Santa Maria, moves to Solvang Festival Theater August 26-September 11. Another rousing American story infused with hip-hop, In The Heights is an additional example of Miranda’s distinctive style and cultural voice. See pcpa.org.

<strong>THE TRUTH OF TARA:</strong> Director Victor Fleming (played by Cylan Brown, pictured
left), screenwriter Ben Hecht (Joel Bryant, center), and legendary producer David O.
Selznick (Patrick Vest, right) work to rewrite the dreadful original draft of <em>Gone with
the Wind</em> in the madcap farce <em>Moonlight and Magnolias</em>.

Moonlight and Magnolias: Due in large part to the development and availability of technology, the process of making films has been cultivated during the past century into a performance art divergent from its roots in live theater. Yet similarities between the art forms remain, making cross-genre commentary a popular dramatic device, whether it’s a film about producing live theater or live theater about making a film. Moonlight and Magnolias, Rubicon Theatre Company’s newest production (opening on Aug. 31), is the latter — a play about the making of David O. Selznick’s notable film Gone with the Wind.

But Moonlight and Magnolias doesn’t offer a staged version of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler’s storied romance; instead it gives audiences a view of the writer’s room, where Selznick has sequestered himself with industry powerhouses: screenwriter Ben Hecht and director Victor Fleming. Selznick has closed production of his movie — an epic drama that covers more than a decade of time (including the entire American Civil War) — convinced the script is leading his film to a disastrous end. Hecht hasn’t read the book the script is supposed to be based on, so Selznick and Fleming reenact Margaret Mitchell’s novel. It takes five days for the three men to create a new, better script for the film, all the while avoiding the film’s stars, nosy Hollywood columnists, and irate family members.

Gone with the Wind, of course, became an immensely successful film, which makes a story of its creation an interesting notion. Moonlight and Magnolias, which runs at Rubicon Theatre in Ventura August 31-September 18, is a story about crafting the story everyone knows. See rubicontheatre.org.


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