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Review: MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS at Oyster Mill Playhouse

Enjoy this delightful farce through May 29th.

Review: MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS at Oyster Mill Playhouse

The 1936 novel Gone with the Wind was adapted to the screen in 1939. Most people are familiar with the classic romance set in the South during the time of the Civil War. Even those who have never seen the movie or read the book know of Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler.

In recent years the story has come under fire for its perpetuation of racial stereotypes and glorification of the Antebellum South. What many may not know is that the film, produced by David O. Selznick, was fraught with problems, including the firing of the original director and issues with the script.

Playwright Ron Hutchinson peels back the curtain to show audiences a reimagination of what may have transpired between producer David O. Selznick, director Victor Fleming, and screenwriter Ben Hecht as they feverishly worked to bring Gone with the Wind to the screen in his play Moonlight and Magnolias. Moonlight and Magnolias is a farce that combines physical comedy with rapid-fire dialogue to create a hilariously funny yet thought-provoking play. Oyster Mill Playhouse brings Moonlight and Magnolias to the stage under the direction of David Payne and Michael Hosler through May 29th.

The production team deserves high praise for their set design (by Michael Hosler and David Payne) and costumes (by Mary Johnson and Linda Orlousky) that transport the audience to 1939, Hollywood. Additionally, the lighting design (by Stephen F.J. Martin) and sound design (by Lindy Mack, Michael Hosler, and Aliza Bardfield) are creative and well executed. The music for the scene changes is particularly enjoyable and keeps audiences engaged as the play moves from scene to scene. The only downside to this production was that it was difficult to hear and understand the lines from the secretary and others when they were designed to sound like they were coming through an intercom on the desk.

Moonlight and Magnolias demands a strong cast with spot-on comedic timing. This cast, directed by Payne and Hosler, does not disappoint. Randi Johnson plays Selznick's long-suffering assistant, Miss Poppenghul. Johnson's facial expressions and no-nonsense attitude are delightful, and her snappy "Yes, Mr. Selznick" and "No, Mr. Selznick" lines are delivered perfectly. Gordon Einhorn, John DiLeonardo, and Matthew Golden take on the roles of screenwriter Ben Hecht, director Victor Fleming, and producer David O. Selznick.

Einhorn is the perfect choice for the role of Hecht. With this character, playwright Ron Hutchinson tackles the tough questions of how issues like race are dealt with in movies. Einhorn takes on the challenges of this character with great emotional range and appropriate subtlety, creating lovely moments of gravitas in the midst of the comedy that make the audience sit back and think about the role and impact of entertainment in society.

DiLeonardo, a newcomer to the stage, portrays Victor Fleming with great energy and sarcasm. He also shows wonderful versatility as his character assists in the retelling of Gone with the Wind to Hecht, who has never read the book. When DiLeonardo's Fleming acts out the roles of Melanie and Prissy, he has the audience roaring with laughter.

The character of David O. Selznick is the linchpin that connects all of the other characters. Matthew Golden's portrayal of Selznick is highly engaging. He handles the rapid-fire dialogue with vigor and finesse, drawing the audience into the frantic energy of the scene. Golden's facial expressions and variations in vocal tone give the character an emotional depth that goes beyond the surface comedy of the farce.

What really brings Oyster Mill's production of Moonlight and Magnolias to life is the chemistry between the actors. Einhorn, Golden, and DiLeonardo are well-matched in energy and strength, which keeps the show moving and engages the audience in the story. Their comedic timing is just right, and their ability to connect with one another on stage helps the more poignant parts of the show to stand out.

Visit www.oystermill.com for information on tickets for Moonlight and Magnolias and treat yourself to an enjoyable evening with a talented cast and crew. (Please note, for those with allergies, the production does use real peanuts)



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From This Author - Andrea Stephenson