Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Moonlight and Magnolias, Penfold Theatre at City Theatre, November 4 - 21

AustinLiveTheatre reviewMoonlight and Magnolias Penfold Theatre

by Dr. David Glen Robinson

Moonlight and Magnolias by Ron Hutchinson is a romp and a challenge for comedic actors. Penfold Theatre Company is giving it a go in the City Theatre behind the Shell station on Airport Boulevard, exciting the audience members who actually manage to find the venue.

The play is relatively new, published in 2004, but it is set in Hollywood, 1939, specifically in the the executive office of Producer David O. Selznick (Ryan Crowder). Shooting of Gone With The Wind (GWTW) has started, but Selznick still does not have a filmable screenplay.

Ryan Crowder (image: Kimberley Mead)

In absolute desperation he summons newspaperman/script doctor Ben Hecht, who hasn't even read the novel. In desperation Selznick locks himself, Hecht (Dave Buckman) and director Victor Fleming (Jay Fraley) in his office with an immense, heavy 1930s typewriter and a supply of bananas and peanuts. Selznick and Fleming act out the scenes to an incredulous Hecht. Selznick gives them all five days to produce the screenplay on which the fortunes of the entire studio are riding.

Apparently this scenario is literally true, a verified episode of GWTW lore. Playwright Ron Hutchinson, a Hollywood insider himself, came across this dramatic gem, thought, “Look, a comedy!” and loaded in a play’s worth of Hollywood trivia and gossip and a few heavier social themes. Voila, Moonlight and Magnolias.

Penfold Theatre took full advantage of the play’s comedic potential. The set, props and costumes were period and accurate down to the early twentieth century copy of Life magazine and other magazines on the coffee table. The rear projection image of Tara kept us on-theme throughout, and the video of excerpted scenes from GWTW was a lagniappe.

Read more at AustinLiveTheatre.com . . . .

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