by Jean Brenner
Steve Lobis (standing) and David Newhouse (seated) in Actors’ NET’s MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS.

Steve Lobis (standing) and David Newhouse (seated) in Actors’ NET’s MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS.

MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS, by Ron Hutchinson, is the current play being performed by Actors’NET at the Heritage Theatre in Morrisville, PA.

Here’s the “backstory”: In 1939, David O. Selznick, unhappy with the script he had been given to create a movie of GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell, chooses to have the script re-written by famed screenwriter Ben Hecht.

Selznick is in a hurry. To accomplish his goal, he locks himself, Hecht and respected director Victor Fleming into an office space for five days feeding them only bananas and peanuts because that is “brain food.” With a nod to human needs, there is a bathroom beyond one of two doors. The other door is locked.

What ensues are the developing antics of three sleep-deprived men who exhibit drunken-like behavior as they write hundreds of pages of description and dialogue.

Steve Lobis, a core member of Actors’NET, plays David O. Selznick with strength and creativity. Amusingly, he portrays various characters from the epic story as he and director Fleming act out their vision of the movie so that Hecht can write the script.

Steve Lobis (left), David Swartz (center) and Margaret DeAngelis (right) in Actors’ NET’s MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS.

Steve Lobis (left), David Swartz (center) and Margaret DeAngelis (right) in Actors’ NET’s MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS.

David Swartz wears various characters well. At one point, he is Prissy, the black maid with the high-pitched voice in the film. In another scene, he is Melanie, giving uncomfortable birth to a baby with no doctor in sight to help. A hefty man, Swartz plays these feminine roles with sincerity and amusement.

David Newhouse, as respected writer Ben Hecht, gradually becomes frazzled. His arms hands and brain go numb after three days of continuously punching keys on a 1930’s typewriter. At one point, Hecht resists writing dialogue for an encounter which he opposes, the one in which black maid Prissy is slapped by Scarlett O’Hara.  Hecht’s is an early voice protesting the demeaning of slaves. Selznick insists that was the way the book was written and he will be true to it.

Bopping in and out of the room before and after the 5 day lock-down is Margaret DeAngelis as secretary Miss Poppenghul. DeAngelis plays the role in stereotypical 1939 fashion. Showing her slim, curvy figure in a tight dress and wearing blonde curls and high heels, DeAngelis jiggles around the stage in Act I taking orders adoringly from Selznick. Act II finds her more subdued, but in a provocative negligee.

In reviews of some earlier productions of MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS, critics called the play: “silly”, “funny slapstickery” and “frantic”. These words easily can be reapplied to this Actors’NET production.

If you are looking for substance, this probably is not for you. But if you like Larry, Moe and Curly, you likely will enjoy the antics of Selznick, Hecht, Fleming and Poppenghul.

Joe Doyle directs; Cheryl Doyle covers costumes and sound; Vicky Czarnik is stage manager; James Cordingley is assistant director and designed the set; Andrena Wisnie operates lights and designed the representative set.

by Ron Hutchinson
Actors’NET of Bucks County
Directed by Joe Doyle
March 1 – 14, 2013
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM. Sunday @ 2 PM
The Heritage Center
635 N. Delmorr Ave.
Morrisville, PA 19067

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