The Playhouse Theatre Company

Moonlight and Magnolias
By Ron Hutchison & Directed by John Cooper

Dates 24 February – 17 March, 2007 Venue Vancouver Playhouse Reviewer Jane Penistan

Moonlight and Magnolias tells the story of the rewriting of the film script for the major spectacular "Gone with the Wind." Three weeks into filming David O. Selznick has fired both his scriptwriter and his director. The monumental sized script was unworkable. With all his money tied up in the film Selznick has to have a workable script by a new writer and a replacement director. He shuts down production for five days, in which time he intends to have a workable script and a new, informed director. Sounds like an impossibility? Not to desperate David O. Selznick.

He invites screenwriter Ben Hecht to breakfast. Ben is cajoled and bribed into accepting the new assignment and set to work on the doorstop sized novel, which he has unfashionably but wisely, not read. Selznick enlightens him on some of its content by performing a scene or two of Scarlet, and then humouring Hecht with a comparison of the recovery from the Civil War with the current U.S recovering from the Great Depression.

Enter Victor Fleming, also invited and in search of breakfast. Denied this, and given the news that he is no longer working on The Wizard of Oz, but on the new nonexistent script, Fleming is hardly delighted at Selznick’s prospect that the three men should be shut up together for five days to get a workable script. Sounds crazy? It is.

From here on in Jay Brazeau, Richard Newman and Stephen E. Miller, assisted by the imperturbable Dawn Petten, as their Girl Friday, perform the improbable farce of the five day wonder of the exhausting gestation and birth of the workable script of "Gone with the Wind."

This proves to be a hilarious vehicle for four great, individual, comic performances. Jay Brazeau, as Selznick, dominates the show, raging, cajoling, mimicking, and dictating the play with well timed and contrasting swift mood and character changes, as occasion demands. Richard Newman is the harried, overworked, unconvinced scriptwriter, Ben Hecht. Frequently on the verge of giving up, he is whipped back into line by the reminder that he is paid to deliver the script, not whine. Victor Fleming is glad to be free of the Munchkins, but not too thrilled with the improbability that the new script may not be much better than the last. Nevertheless, he enjoys the fun of acting with Selznick scenes from the novel for Hecht to translate into lines. As might be imagined, this is pure slapstick, and there are lots of very funny, laughable lines to go with it.

Underlying the hype is the fate of the Jewish victims of German anti-Semitism. "Gone with the Wind" was made at the beginning World War II, while America was still a neutral country. It is only Hecht who concerned for the plight of the persecuted and this is played down.

For an evening of improbable farce, fractured film history, splendid physical and well-timed acting in a magnificent, well lit set, this John Cooper directed production, is it.

© 2007 Jane Penistan