Atlanta is burning. They don’t have a Scarlett. Heck. They don’t even have a screen play. David O. Selznick goes to his phone – It’s time to call Super Hecht.
This may seem a little far-fetched – but remember, this is Hollywood. And this is exactly what happened – sort of – according to playwright Ron Hutchinson, who recounts the events of the creation of 1939’s movie epic “Gone With the Wind” exactly how it happened – sort of – in his hilarious play “Moonlight and Magnolias,” the current production at Tacoma Little Theatre.
Now, to get down to facts: it is true that producer Selznick fired director George Cukor about three weeks into the filming; it is true that Selznick auditioned about every actress in Hollywood, short of Shirley Temple, for the part Scarlett; it is true that the burning of Atlanta shows Clark Gable driving a horse-drawn rig through the burning Civil War-torn city with an unrecognizable, blanket-covered female figure sitting next to him because Selznick had yet to find British actress Vivian Leigh who made her American debut in this very American film; it is true that Victor Fleming was whisked from the set of “The Wizard of Oz” to work on GWTW
And, let’s face it, it’s probably also true that Selznick commandeered boy wonder screen writer Ben Hecht, who had never read Margaret Mitchell’s 1,037 page masterpiece (“You haven’t read it?! Everybody’s read it!”), to create a new script, grabbed Fleming and locked the three of them in his office for five days on a diet of bananas and peanuts and blood, sweat and tears and turned out the little picture show.
So, now we’re in Selznick’s office with the legendary producer, director Fleming and Hecht with their only outside world connection Miss Poppenghul, Selznick’s secretary. She feeds them the bananas and peanuts and enough “Yeses” to satisfy any a mogul.
And what an office it is. Set designer Black R. York has recreated a typical Hollywood movie company office complete with posh leather-tufted couch and chair, a desk, a few shelves for awards, a typewriter and table and some period movie posters (the bananas and peanuts are props).
Michele Graves does costumes which fit the style and Briana Osborne is Stage Manager (she and Property Master Katelyn Simpson are the ones who keep the bananas and peanuts coming).
Pavlina Morris is the director of this outlandish story; she keeps it moving along in much the style of the Marx Brothers playing Shakespeare! There is always something happening and sometimes by the time the audience realizes what happened, the scene has shifted but the laugh lingers on.
This is a funny show – a bit weird at times (bananas and peanuts) – but always funny – and not with titters but guffaws. Morris has a terrific cast of only four actors doing so much shtick there’s ne’er a dull moment.
Katelyn Hoffman is Miss Poppenghul, the secretary who puts any Hollywood “yes” man to shame. If Hoffman has 50 lines in the show, 48 of them are “Yes, Mr. Selznick.” Easy? Not on your life. This is a part an actor has to “listen” to the person to whom she is responding so she knows how to say that multi-repeated line – and she says it right every time; quite a
Tedd Saint-Davis is Ben Hecht. Saint-Davis is just right for this part – he oozes self-confidence while having no idea what he’s talking about, although he is certain he can do the job! At times the character is fittingly befuddled, as is the actor.
Jacob Tice is the incredulous Victor Fleming, who can’t believe he was taken off “Oz” to help create the screenplay for another film. Tice does a wonderful job of “acting” out the loveable Butterfly McQueen as Prissy and Olivia de Havilland’s Melanie.
Blake R. York is the pivotal character David O. Selznick, who is the cause of the chaos. York is in his element in this role. He is a good, all-round actor who is perfect for sight comedy. York does equally well with straight drama – and in this show, he has plenty of opportunities to do both – excellently.
“Moonlight and Magnolias” continues its very short two-week run at Tacoma Little Theatre at 210 North I Street through June 22 at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays with 2 p.m. matinees Sundays.
For more information or to make reservations call the theatre at (253) 272-2281 or go online to www.tacomalittletheatre.com.
Call the theatre quickly so you can make it to one of the very few remaining performances of this zany comedy before it is Gone With the Wind!