Play goes behind the scenes of screenwriting

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Scene from Moonlight and Magnolias

Courtesy of Claus Anderson

MAYBE HIRING MONKEYS TO WRITE WOULD’VE BEEN MORE PRODUCTIVE. Moonlight and Magnolias stars Ben Carlson as David O. Selznick, Tom Rooney as Ben Hecht and Robert Persichini as Victor Fleming. The play focuses on the trio’s struggle to write a screenplay for Gone With the Wind.

Moonlight and Magnolias
Directed by: Gina Wilkinson
Starring: Ben Carlson, Robert Persichini, Tom Rooney

4 stars

Moonlight and Magnolias is a comical salute to old Hollywood’s splendor.

The play centres on a producer, a writer and a director who lock themselves in a room to create the classic Hollywood film Gone with the Wind’s screenplay.

Producer David O. Selznick (Ben Carlson) purchases the rights to Gone with the Wind but is displeased with the numerous screenplays his staff has compiled.

In desperation Selznick hires screenwriter Ben Hecht (Tom Rooney) " who hasn’t even read Gone with the Wind " and pulls director Victor Fleming (Robert Persichini) from filming the final scenes of The Wizard of Oz.

In a vain attempt to complete the nearly impossible project in five days, Selznick locks himself, Hecht, and Fleming in his office with only bananas and nuts for nourishment. Selznick and Fleming are forced to act out the book for Hecht, resulting in hilarious impersonations of the novel’s dramatic characters.

Though the play is mostly lighthearted, it contains a few serious arguments and addresses a few serious issues. For example, the infamous scene in Gone with the Wind where Scarlett slaps a young slave girl becomes a contentious issue. Hecht initially refuses to write the slap into the script, claiming he’s troubled about advocating slavery, let alone child abuse.

Carlson started shakily, ending sentences abruptly and not capturing the audience’s full attention. As the play progressed, he became more comfortable, engaging viewers with believable arguments and insane bursts of creativity.

Persichini was incredible as Victor Fleming. His large statue may not have overshadowed his costars, but his strong presence certainly did.

Rooney’s lines were well-delivered. His sarcastic comments and convincing frustration brought his character to life.

The trio’s stage presence and character portrayal effectively told a “behind the scenes” story which captivated its audience.

The show’s set was a chaotic office filled with scattered bananas and nuts. The set complemented the play’s crazy characters.

Don’t worry if you haven’t seen Gone with the Wind; you’ll still appreciate Moonlight and Magnolias. It’s a pleasant escape from the winter blues.

Moonlight and Magnolias runs until Jan. 27 at the Grand Theatre. For more information, visit www.grandtheatre.com.

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