‘Moonlight and Magnolias' comes to the Gainesville Community Playhouse


“Moonlight and Magnolias” features, from left, Doug Diekow as Victor Fleming, Jennie Stringfellow as Miss Poppenghul and Henry Wihnyk as David O. Selznick. (Courtesy of Ed Hunter)

Published: Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 11:45 a.m.

Starting Friday, the Gainesville Community Playhouse will take audience members back in time to capture the whirlwind production behind the famous film “Gone With the Wind.”

Facts

‘Moonlight and Magnolias’

What: Gainesville Community Playhouse production of comedy about writing the screenplay for “Gone With the Wind”
When: Opens Friday with a preview performance at 8 tonight; showtimes are 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through June 2
Where: Vam York Theater, 4039 NW 16th Blvd.
Tickets: $16, $10 for students with ID and children, and $10 for seniors for Sunday’s performance only; all seats are $5 for tonight’s preview
Info: 376-4949, gcplayhouse
Note: The Vam York Theater features a Loop Hearing Assist Device that allows patrons with property-equipped hearing aids to hear the show’s audio through their hearing aids.

Forget notions of plantations and the city of Atlanta, however: “Moonlight and Magnolias,” which centers on the screenplay of the 1939 film, captures the comedic pain in birthing a work of art rather than the birthing depicted in the movie, though a “re-enactment” of sorts does figure into the comedy, which opens Friday and runs through June 2 at the Vam York Theater.

Ron Hutchinson's play is set in 1939 on the MGM studio lot where producer David O. Selznick, “script doctor” Ben Hecht and director Victor Fleming spent a week creating the screenplay for the film version of “Gone With the Wind,” says Carlos Asse, director of the production.

The play begins as Selznick is five weeks into the shooting of the film when he realizes the script is awful and needs to be replaced. In order to salvage the production, he calls Fleming from the set of “The Wizard of Oz” to direct the film and gets legendary playwright and screenwriter Hecht to rewrite the script.

Over the course of just five days the three, assisted by Selznick's assistant, Miss Poppenghul, are locked in Selznick's office subsisting on only peanuts and bananas yet manage to put together the screenplay for one of the most popular films of all time.

In addition to the time constraint, there's another catch — Hecht hasn't even read Margaret Mitchell's book. Therefore, Selznick and Fleming are forced to act out the book in order to help Hecht write the script, Asse says.

“The play is very funny. In the midst of all of this, there is a conflict between the director and the writer,” Asse says. “They are at odds with each other, but because the screenwriter hasn't read the material they have to act it out for them. You have these two grown-up men acting like women and even re-enacting the birth scene when Melanie has a baby. It's hysterical.”

Actor Doug Diekow, who plays Fleming in the play, says he believes audiences will love the show because it is a comedy yet touches on such serious topics as racism, slavery and other social issues that were prominent during the Civil War.

“I think the audience will love the show,” Diekow says. “One of the things that is really appealing about the show is that on one hand it is a comedy, but I think they will appreciate that there is a message in the show as well.”

That message, however, is one that Diekow says should be experienced in the moment during a performance. “There is a real message there, but I think people need to come and see the show to learn it,” he says.

“I think people should come see the show because it is funny, and it will have them laughing and thinking throughout the night.

“My guess is most people that come are going to be shocked by the time it's over, because they are going to feel like they just got here. The performance moves really well, and before you know it, it's going to be over, and you aren't going to realize it has been an hour and a half or two hours.”

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