@ The Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Main St.
 

Moonlight and Magnolias

By Ron Hutchinson, Directed by Shaun Hadfield

  • Sam Damon as Victor Fleming
  • Bobby Senecal as David O Selznick
  • Linda Wray as Miss Poppenghul
  • Steve Rosse as Ben Hecht
  • L to R: Steve Rosse as Ben Hecht, Bobby Senecal as David O Selznick, and Sam Z. Damon as Victor Fleming
  • L to R: Steve Rosse as Ben Hecht, Bobby Senecal as David O Selznick, and Sam Z. Damon as Victor Fleming
  • L to R: Sam Z. Damon as Victor Fleming and Steve Rosse as Ben Hecht,
  • L to R: Linda Wray as Miss Poppenghul and Bobby Senecal as David O Selznick
  • L to R: Steve Rosse as Ben Hecht, Bobby Senecal as David O Selznick, and Sam Z. Damon as Victor Fleming
  • L to R: Steve Rosse as Ben Hecht, Bobby Senecal as David O Selznick, and Sam Z. Damon as Victor Fleming
  • L to R: Bobby Senecal as David O Selznick, and Sam Z. Damon as Victor Fleming
  • L to R: Steve Rosse as Ben Hecht, Sam Z. Damon as Victor Fleming, and Bobby Senecal as David O Selznick
  • L to R: Bobby Senecal as David O Selznick, Sam Z. Damon as Victor Fleming, and Steve Rosse as Ben Hecht
  • L to R: Steve Rosse as Ben Hecht, Bobby Senecal as David O Selznick, and Sam Z. Damon as Victor Fleming
  • L to R: Steve Rosse as Ben Hecht, Bobby Senecal as David O Selznick, and Sam Z. Damon as Victor Fleming

Oct 10-Oct 26, 2014

FRI OCT 10,17,24| 8:00 PM
SAT OCT 11,18,25| 8:00 PM
SUN OCT 19,26| 2:30 PM
THRS OCT 23 | 7:00 PM

Description

After three years of development and three weeks of shooting, Hollywood movie mogul David O. Selznick realizes everything is wrong. The script simply doesn't work. The pacing is too slow. With deadlines looming and debts mounting, Selznick makes a bold decision. He halts production, fires the director, and brings in the best director and screenwriter Hollywood can offer. Now against the clock on a diet of bananas and peanuts, these men work tirelessly for five days behind closed doors to craft one of the movie industry's most enduring films: Gone With the Wind. Starting October 10 and running through the 26th, No Strings Theatre Company's latest production Moonlight and Magnolias takes us behind the door, offering a funny and insightful glimpse at what it takes to make a film classic.

The show takes the audience on a wild ride through the triumphs and perils of film making. Alongside Selznick are Hollywood's foremost rewrite guy Ben Hecht and the brazen but talented director Victor Fleming. Also featured is Selznick's long-suffering but attentive secretary Miss Poppengul. Many themes of the day such as America's economy and the imminent war in Europe frequently arise as the men work to adapt Margaret Mitchell's best seller for the screen. "At times the script is laugh-out-loud funny and other times it's thought provoking," says director Shaun Hadfield. "Even as Gone With the Wind is celebrates its 75th anniversary, you find yourself on the edge of your seat cheering for these men, hoping they succeed as each page comes off the typewriter."

Credits

Ben Hecht
David O Selznick
Miss Poppenghul
Victor Fleming
Costume Design
Director
Lighting Design
Properties Design And Set Dressing
Sound Design
Stage Manager
Written By

Reviews

'Moonlight and Magnolias' an inspiration
- By Gerald M. Kane, Las Cruces Bulletin

There is a great fascination with "back stories" of vintage classic films in today's culture. TMZ and E! are testimony to the pop culture phenomenon. Over the years, a plethora of over-sized coffee table books have been created - many fill our library shelves - providing background tidbits about classic films and the larger-than-life celebrities. This is a fad that won't go away.

Currently playing on the stage of the Black Box Theatre is a well appointed, hilarious, well-acted and over-the top production of Ron Hutchinson's "Moonlight and Magnolias." The play fills us in on what may have transpired (according to cinema lore) in 1936 when Producer David O. Selznick desperate to save Margaret Mitchell's Civil War classic "Gone with the Wind" imprisoned, for lack of a better word, script doctor Ben Hecht and director Victor Fleming - who was just completing "The Wizard of Oz," punching Judy Garland only once - assigning them with the daunting task of re-writing the screenplay, the original of which did not suit him.

Selznick hires Fleming to take over as director, and offers Hecht $15,000 to take the latest version of the script and turn it into something he can use. Unfortunately, Hecht has never read more than the first page of the book, and all he knows about the story is that it's set in the South, has slaves and involves the Civil War. Hecht thinks the movie is a terrible idea, and repeatedly reminds Selznick what a failure it's going to be. "No Civil War movie has ever made a dime," he says early on, and later, "I don't know whether this is a very good bad book or a very bad good book ... but I do know you'll never get a movie out of it." To prove him wrong - and to give him an idea of what to write - Selznick locks the three of them in his office for five days and proceeds, with the help of Fleming, to act out the entire story for Hecht while he types.

That is the conceit of "Moonlight and Magnolias," and it is from this that the play draws most of its comedy. As the days pass, the three men become tired and begin taking their frustrations out on each other. To keep the animals in his circus going, Selznick orders large quantities of bananas and peanuts. "They're brain food," he explains.

Under Shaun Hadfield's excellent direction, the Black Box production sails along at yeoman's speed, buoyed by top-drawer performances by four actors who truly outdo themselves. Elements of the play require physical, bordering on slapstick, comedy. Hadfield worked with the actors and fight choreographer Darin Robert Cabot, and the results are phenomenal.

In the thankless role of Selznick's secretary Miss Poppenghul, Linda Wray is right out of central casting. You can see and feel her frustration as she takes orders from her domineering boss without uttering a word. Alas, we never do get a chance to see her explode ... but we know the potential is there. Robert Senecal as Selznick delivers a fabulous portrayal of the movie mogul. He really understands who he is, and the power he yields, not to mention a faith that the project will be completed.

The dynamics on stage as the script is dictated/written leave one speechless.

Senecal interacts easily and beautifully with the other key characters.

Sam Damon has found his voice and pace in this production. Mea culpa! My criticism of Sam in other local productions has moved to the sidelines. He outdoes himself in this role and I give him high praise for his work.

A word of caution: Fleming may not have grown up in a parochial school. His lines are liberally peppered with profanity - as is often the case in Hollywood - but they are perfectly in character. Peter Herman's lighting and set design is "spot on."

For me, the performance which shines the brightest is that of newcomer Steve Rosse as Ben Hecht. His machine-gun delivery as he reviews elements of the script left me speechless. He so incorporates every element of Ben Hecht's complex personality. Bravo Steve! We look forward to seeing more of your talent in future productions.

In her summary press release, producer Ceil Herman sums up the production of "Moonlight and Magnolias" perfectly. The play's comedic value is strong and witty lines, the acted out scenes from "Gone with the Wind" and the creative spats between the three very different men. On a deeper level, this play addresses bigger issues relevant in 1939, including racism, slavery, prejudice against Jews in the film industry and Hitler's rise in Europe. Layered in the storyline is each man's vision with the creative process and a deeper look at the film industry as a whole.

"Moonlight and Magnolias" runs through Sunday, Oct. 26. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $12 regular admission, $10 for students and seniors over 65 and all seats on Thursdays are $8. For reservations, call 523-1223.


Gerald Kane has reviewed theater, film and opera for NPR stations and newspapers in New Orleans, Phoenix and Kansas City as well as for the Las Cruces Bulletin for the past 12 years. A former member of the American Theatre Critics Association, he has taught "Jews on Screen" at NMSU.He is the Rabbi Emeritus of TempleBeth-El in Las Cruces.

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