Stagecrafters Mix Comedy & Documentary in MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS

by Arnie Finkel

Carl Heyde, Jeff Ragan and Mark Grayson in a scene from The Stagecrafters' production of MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS. (Photo credit: Sara Stewart)

Ron Hutchinson’s script for MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS suffers from a case of split personality.  It’s a documentary about the writing of the script for GONE WITH THE WIND, a commentary on the state of movie making in the late 1930s, the approaching world war, anti semitism, and the cult of personalities in the movie business – all wrapped up in a screwball physical comedy.

The Stagecrafters’ production has a lot of good going for it.  The cast works hard and squeezes the laughs out wherever possible.  They got the physical comedy right, especially in the very well staged fight scene. Kudos to fight coordinator Ian Rose.

Jeff Ragan has the difficult job of playing David O Selznick as both cheerleader and referee in what is loosely described as a story based on fact.  He pulls it off with flair.  As script doctor Ben Hecht, Mark Grayson gives a fully realized characterization of the writer who never read the book the movie was based on.  His sense of what is morally right gives rise to many of the discussions which pervade the evening.

Carl Heyde portrays the egocentric film director, Victor Fleming.  He is at his best when acting out parts of the script as it is being written.

Rounding out the four person cast, Judy Kinsley was near perfect as the put upon secretary, Miss Poppenguhl.

Scott Killinger provided the players with a realistic office set, complete with the Hollywood sign outside the window.  The lighting by Gilbert Todd and the costumes by Susan Rosenberg Flagg, Janet Gilmore and Joan Blake were just right.  The six people on the props committee did a bang up job in providing period pieces along with lots of bananas and peanuts.

Director Tracie Lango had the difficult job of balancing the docu-drama and the comedy.  For the most part, she was successful.  With a script this multi themed, it’s very hard to figure out what to emphasize. She kept the play moving along well.

MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS is the 510th production of Stagecrafters in their 83rd season.  The play is sure to spark some interesting after-theater discussions.

by Ron Hutchinson
Directed by Tracie Lango
November 25-December 11, 2011
The Stagecrafters
8130 Germantown Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19118

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