Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Homage to filmmaking fit as a fiddle-dee-dee

  • Print

Fact is stranger than fiction, goes the old maxim, and it's also funnier in Moonlight and Magnolias, the Prairie Theatre Exchange season-ender.

Irish-born pen-for-hire Ron Hutchinson has fashioned a realistic fantasy about the real-life rewriting of the screenplay for Gone With the Wind in 1939. All subtlety is also gone with a comic gust as the excellent local cast sends up Margaret Mitchell's story to hilarious effect, particularly in the sparkling first act. (It heads further south after intermission when it asks to be taken more seriously.)

As the lights come up, there's trouble in Tinseltown, where big-time producer David O. Selznick has suspended filming on his would-be blockbuster, canned director George Cukor, dragged Victor Fleming off the set of The Wizard of Oz to replace him and parachuted in hotshot rewriter Ben Hecht.

Selznick has all his money and reputation riding on this project, so he locks himself and his two new recruits in his office until they produce a new screenplay. All they have to eat are bananas and peanuts, which Selznick believes enhance brain power.

The mogul's office is strikingly conceived by designer Elli Bunton, who has set the upper level atop what looks like a reel of film.

Hutchinson's running gag is that Hecht is one of the few people who has not read the 1,037-page bestseller, so the other two have to play-act the melodrama of Scarlett and Rhett's tumultuous love affair.

Director Ann Hodges oversees a snappy homage to movie-making in film's golden age. It's a messy process, as evidenced by the piles of discarded scripts, crumpled paper, banana peels and peanut shells littering the stage after the five-day marathon.

There is even a little homemade filmmaking on display when the actors perform speeded-up scenes lit by a strobe light.

Whether silly as the superior Scarlett or outrageously demanding as the autocratic Selznick, Gordon Tanner gives one of his best performances as a desperate man who will not be denied the making a great movie. He is all over the stage, chasing and cajoling his charges, and is then equally persuasive when Selznick is catatonic and frozen stiff for five minutes.

James Durham portrays combative Fleming (he only hit Judy Garland once on the Oz set, he maintains) with the same comic conviction as he does the pregnant Melanie, the dashing Rhett or the young black maid Prissy in the impromptu re-enactments.

It is the dream merchant Hecht (Omar Khan) who balks at including the racism depicted in the American South without comment. "We have a responsibility to make American look its ugly mug in the mirror," he says.

Moonlight and Magnolias gets weighty one moment, when Hecht is chiding Selznick over anti-Semitism in Hollywood, and then goes all giddy the next, when he is a participant in a three-way, slap-happy scene that channels the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges.

Khan, so impressive last season in Glengarry Glen Ross at the MTC Warehouse, is up to the task of being Hutchinson's conscience as the weary Hecht pounds away at the typewriter.

As the boss's humourless secretary, Miriam Smith manages to hold audience attention despite saying little other than, "Yes, Mr. Selznick," dozens of time.

Moonlight and Magnolias loses some of its wind in the second act, as the premise is sapped of its novelty, but on a snowy, frigid spring Winnipeg night, it proved a welcome diversion.

kevin.prokosh@freepress.mb.ca

 

THEATRE REVIEW

Moonlight and Magnolias

Prairie Theatre Exchange

To April 12

Tickets: $22-$38

3-1/2 stars out of five

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 28, 2009 C3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Humans of the Holidays (in Winnipeg)

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A group of Horese pose for the camera in the early evening light at Southcreek Stables in Stl Norbert Wednessday. Sept  14, 2011 (RUTH BONNEVILLE) / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A young goose gobbles up grass at Fort Whyte Alive Monday morning- Young goslings are starting to show the markings of a adult geese-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 20– June 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will you be hitting up any Boxing Day sales?

View Results

Ads by Google