Orange County Theatre Reviews

Written by Daniella Litvak

Gone With the Wind is an epic movie. The story of southern belle Scarlet O’Hara’s complicated relationships during the Civil War and Reconstruction Era won ten Academy Awards and is still widely considered one of the greatest movies of all time. However, as Moonlight & Magnolias demonstrates, the drama behind the scenes was as suspenseful as anything the film depicts.

The year is 1939, and Producer David O. Selznick (Sean Brugos) is in a dire predicament. It’s three weeks into the production of Gone With the Wind and he has had to fire the director.  Meanwhile the script is a train wreck. But Selznick has too much invested –financially and personally –in this movie to let those disasters bring him down. In order to rectify the situation he tasks Ben Hecht (Christopher Sullivan) with rewriting the script, and  Wizard of Oz director Victor Fleming (Brian J. Page) –will take charge at the helm. They don’t have much time though. And so with only five days to adapt a novel that is more than 1000 pages into a working screenplay,  the ever-rational Selznick locks all three of them in his office with the vow that they will not come out until the script is complete.

What follows is a hilarious collision of agendas and egos. The play has slapstick, sarcasm, and wild reenactments of iconic Gone With the Wind scenes from Selznick and Fleming. I really cannot praise the show’s comedy enough. It grabs your attention from start to finish.

But Moonlight & Magnolias is not just about pithy dialogue and flying props. As the trio of Sleznick, Hecht, and Fleming work more and more on the script, serious topics such as dictatorships, discrimination, and romanticism versus realism in movies come to the forefront. It is harrowing how easily the points brought up apply to the present day. At the same time, it’s important to note that the show is never pedantic or grinding to a halt during the discussions of these topics.

All of the roles require tons of stamina due to the amount of physical comedy. And I genuinely believed how exhausted each of them became as the ordeal drags on. Della Lisi plays Selznick’s beleaguered assistant, Miss Poppenghul. She has the least stage time, but every time she’s there, you can tell what’s transpiring, and what it’s costing her to get their picture back on track. Page excellently handles whatever is thrown at Fleming, who is a character that needs to be both respected and the butt of most jokes. Equally mesmerizing to watch is Burgos’ unraveling of Selznick from a producer in trouble but seems to be managing to a mad visionary. Fortunately Sullivan’s Hecht is always ready to bring things back reality with a well timed, withering remark. Christopher Sullivan is one of the best deadpan ‘snarkers’ I have ever watched. His character acts as the group’s conscience, and it’s wonderful to watch him challenge the others on moral and storytelling grounds. Together they’re so great I find myself wishing to see them together in another production.  

I can’t recommend Moonlight & Magnolias enough. It is a must see show. Get tickets now!

May 5th – 28th 2016

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