Frankly My Dear, MOONLIGHT and MAGNOLIAS is a Must-See

by Walter Bender

Montgomery Theater’s latest offering, MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS, is the (somewhat-accurate) story of David O. Selznick’s attempt to get a working script for his filming of Gone With The Wind. There were already many scriptwriters who took a shot at it without success, and so Mr. Selznick enlists the aid of his most truster writer, Ben Hecht, and the newly-appointed director of the film, Victor Fleming to get the script written. He locks them all in a room with bananas and peanuts (brain food) and he and Mr. Fleming act out the book for Mr. Hecht, who has not read it.

Director Tom Quinn has assembled a wonderful cast to tell this story. Tony Braithwaite portrays David O. Selznick. Anyone who has seen Mr. Braithwaite perform knows his incredible energy and comedic timing. His Selznick is equal parts carnival barker, huckster and politician. He keeps the pace of the play right on the edge of breakneck, never tipping over too far yet keeping the audience on the edge of their seats for the entire production.

Paired opposite Mr. Braithwaite is another local comic veteran, Marc Weil, who portrays Ben Hecht as the overworked, exasperated, yet very loyal writer. Mr. Weil is a genius of physical comedy, and there are slapstick elements of this show that sparkle as a result. His interaction with Mr. Braithwaite is comedic timing at its finest.

Completing the triumvirate locked in the room is David Jack as the director, Victor Fleming. Mr. Jack gives a wonderful performance as Fleming, the director that fears failure yet strives to make the perfect movie always. He argues with Hecht, finally agreeing to act out the book with Selznick. Their scenes as the many characters in the movie were hilarious.

Rounding out the cast is Mariel Rosati as Selznick’s secretary/Girl Friday, Miss Poppenghul. Ms. Rosati does some very fine work, keeping up with the madness taking place before her, answering calls, bringing more peanuts, and everything else asked of her. I loved the way her character showed the days without sleep.

The set, designed by John Hobbie and executed by R. Cameron Purdy was very effective, giving the actors plenty of room to dash about, yet giving them the closed-in feeling when necessary. The lighting and sound were also excellent, adding punctuation when necessary yet not overshadowing what was happening on stage.

Playwright Ron Hutchingson has woven a very tight storyline, with just enough historical accuracy to keep everyone guessing what is to come. Director Tom Quinn has taken this script and added his touches to make this a can’t-miss production. Congratulations to Montgomery Theater for a delicious experience.

by Ron Hutchingson
Directed by Tom Quinn
June 17 – July 10, 2010
Montgomery Theater
124 North Main Street
Souderton, PA 18964

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