‘Moonlight and Magnolias’ at Rubicon
David Bazemore

This thought-provoking and hilarious play takes the bare outline of a true story from the biography of Gone with the Wind screenwriter Ben Hecht and reimagines what it might have been like to adapt Margaret Mitchell’s 1,000-plus-page novel for the screen in just five days. Production’s been shut down by producer David O. Selznick (Patrick Vest), who has also fired director George Cukor. Hecht (Joel Bryant) agrees to put in five days reworking the film’s incomplete script in exchange for a hefty fee despite the fact that he has never read the novel. Into this pressure cooker walks Selznick’s new director, Victor Fleming (Cylan Brown), who has been pulled off of shooting The Wizard of Oz to rescue the picture. In order to ensure that the movie gets the script it needs, Selznick locks them all, including his secretary, Miss Poppenghul (Jennifer Ridgway), into his office at MGM Studios until the work is finished.

Veteran director Stephanie A. Coltrin fires up this terrific cast for an antic evening that flies by in gusts not of wind but of laughter. As the director and the producer proceed to enact the story for the screenwriter, Patrick Vest and Cylan Brown go careening through a kaleidoscope of improvisations and impersonations. As Hecht, Bryant attempts to initiate a serious conversation about the moral shortcomings of the Mitchell material, attempts that are consistently thwarted, as are his appeals to Selznick’s sense of ethnic solidarity. In the end, the age-old riddle of who is most responsible for the success of a picture is resolved in favor of the producer, who counters all skepticism about the project with a rhetorical question exalting the magic of the movies: “You got a better way to live forever?”


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