Theater

Moonlight and Magnolias

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When the original director of Gone with the Wind is fired after only three weeks of shooting, producer David O. Selznick (James Sullivan) hires director Victor Fleming (Michael Teufel) and screenwriter Ben Hecht (Michael Mendelson) to rework the script in preparation for a fresh start.

Hecht has never read the book, so, as imagined in Ron Hutchinson's Moonlight and Magnolias, the three men lock themselves in Selznick's office and reenact the entirety of Margaret Mitchell's 1,000-plus page novel for Hecht, while Hecht dutifully transcribes the action.

Mercifully, the audience is spared a full-length staging of the book—the show is interspersed with conflicts between the three men, who grow increasingly disheveled and increasingly constipated as the show progresses (Selznick insists that they eat nothing but bananas and peanuts—brain food). Hecht and Fleming butt heads over their respective importance, while the Jewish Hecht calls out the also-Jewish Selznick for producing a film that glorifies the slavery-era South when, at that very moment, across the ocean, Hitler is driving Jews out of Europe.

Unfortunately, broad, slapstick comedic stylings don't juxtapose well with earnest concerns about racism. Public Playhouse's ensemble bears no responsibility for this; the real problem is Hutchinson's schizophrenic little script, which falls over itself shilling for laughs, yet begs to be taken seriously as a commentary on man's inhumanity to man. Example: A scene in which Scarlett slaps her young maid in the face is reenacted again and again, ostensibly to find the least-offensive way to film it. Michael Teufel does his best little black girl impression. Mmhmm. No points for effort.

While the actors here all do solid work—particularly an always-excellent Mendelson, whose restraint here is appreciated among a set littered with bananas and peanut shells—and Dustin Milberg's direction keeps things moving at a brisk clip, this baby just didn't need to get born. The highlight of the show was when Mendelson accidentally pegged a front-row audience member with a banana. Now that's entertainment.

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