Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 28, 2013

Moonlight and Magnolias

Playhouse on Park, West Hartford, CT
through February 10, 2013
by Jarice Hanson

The stories and anecdotes that surrounded the making of the movie "Gone With the Wind" are as legendary as 1930s Hollywood itself. "In Moonlight and Magnolias," one of those stories is realized as a zany farce. The play uses slapstick and speculation to comically comment on popular culture, the star system, and the role of Jews and Blacks in the formation of the most powerful storytelling industry in the world.

Self-referential and melodramatic, the play is written in the same way that Margaret Mitchell wrote her novel. There are moments of insight, but more often, clunky dialog drags down the story. The play comes alive with director Russell Garrett’s deft hand and ability to “find the funny” on the arena stage.

The three fine actors who energetically infuse their characters with charm, narcissism, and intelligence, portray what might have happened when Selznick (Kevin Eldon) summoned screenwriter Ben Hecht (Allan Greenberg) and director Victor Fleming (Bill Mootos) to “fix” the movie that had already started production. The three attempt to reenact famous scenes while sequestered for a five day period in Selznick’s office, including the burning of Atlanta, the search for a better way for Rhett to say “I don’t give a shit,” and the meaning of Scarlett’s famous last line in the movie, “Tomorrow is another day.” Beleaguered secretary, Miss Poppenghul (Denise Walker) adds a comic comment and the result is an evening of fun.

Playhouse on Park is a young professional theater, but productions like this are promising. Kudos to the cast and the exceptional production team for their attention to detail and allowing the spotlight to shine on this story of Hollywood history with passion, whimsy, and good, old fashioned fun!

NOTE: Contains some strong language