Friday, February 19, 2010

Moonlight and Magnolias, Gaslight Baker Theatre, Lockhart, January 29 - February 14

Lots of folks turned out for the last Saturday night performance of Roy Hutchinson's Moonlight and Magnolias by the Gaslight Baker Theatre. Word of mouth had been at work down in Lockhart about this guys' screwball comedy.

There is a dame in the cast. Esther Williams has only a few lines in her role as Miss Poppenghul, the earnest and attentive secretary to Hollywood producer David O. Selznick (David Schneider). Most of those are variations on "Yes, Mr. Selnick" and "Right away, Mr. Selznick." In the midst of the rowdy five-day shouting match carried on by Selznick, screenwriter Ben Hecht (Randy Wachtel) and film director Victor Fleming (Steve Lawson) as they labor to save the script of Gone with the Wind, Miss Poppenghul's increasing disarray and wide-eyed apprehension are a running gag that neatly upstages the battle royal.

Playwright Hutchinson latched onto a remarkable moment in Hollywood history. Wikipedia quotes Ben Hecht's biographer William McAdams: "At dawn on Sunday, February 20, 1939, David Selznick ... and director Victor Fleming shook Hecht awake to inform him he was on loan from MGM and must come with them immediately and go to work on Gone with the Wind, which Selznick had begun shooting five weeks before. It was costing Selznick $50,000 each day the film was on hold waiting for a final screenplay rewrite and time was of the essence." The three men locked themselves up in Selznick's office for five days (Hecht later said it was for eight days). Because Hecht hadn't read the novel, the other two acted out the principal scenes and Hecht turned that into a script.

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