“Gone With The Wind” is one of my favorite movies. I can’t imagine how this classic movie could be produced today without the Fed printing more money. Legendary performances and one of the most famous “see ya later“ lines in cinematic history. Playwright Ron Hutchinson was also impressed by the movie but, more importantly, how it was made, so he was inspired to create “Moonlight and Magnolias.” The scenario focuses on producer David O. Selznick (Jonathan McCleery), who has fired the original director of “Gone With The Wind” and is in need of a script revision. He has five days to rewrite and begin shooting or the production will shut down. Enter Victor Fleming (Dennis Runkle) to direct and screenwriter Ben Hecht (Dale Hruska) to rewrite the script. Throw in a few problems, like Hecht hasn’t read the book, Fleming is still working on “The Wizard of Oz”, and the fact that it is hard to get anyone to agree on anything. How does Selznick solve that problem? Simple. Just lock the door and have your secretary, Miss Poppenghul (Kristina Rivera), hold your calls, and bring in a steady supply of bananas and peanuts. Apparently, fiber is a key ingredient to success. But, within those five days, a lot of hilarious and poignant moments come together to achieve the goal.
At the helm of this mockumentary is Brad Sales. He pulls together a solid cast of professional crazies to set this script in action. This collection of community theatre veterans turns in a fun evening of theatre-in-the-round for a packed house. Sales uses a great sense of movement and staging to ensure all sides are thoroughly entertained.
McCleery is the anchor of the ship of brilliant foolishness. He navigates the script with plenty of deft choices as his character handles egos and deadlines. He is a blustering vehicle of somewhat controlled chaos and pathos. Hruska’s madness can be measured by the state of his hair. He starts off together and somewhat flustered with the task, and then turns into a hot mess of talent and comic frustration. Runkle is a towering figure of comic gold. Watching him interpret the female characters is a true delight. With great confidence, timing, and a dead pan mug that triggers laughter all night long. Rivera brings great comedic energy as Miss Poppenghul. It would not surprise me if she ended up with a tattoo which read “Yes, Mr. Selznick” after the run. Delightfully, somehow Rivera finds different ways to say that one line that always keeps it fresh and funny. And, her unkempt chassis at the end is a blast, reflecting the harried journey they have all been through.
There were some distractions. The script itself seems to overplay the same arguments over and over again. The cast fell into a “line-reaction-line-reaction” pattern that slowed the pace unnecessarily. There were some delays in the sound and fade blackouts in the scene-ending tableaus. I expect as the run continues, these will tighten and resolve themselves.
The production team put in some great work: Stage Manager Kathy Whitmore, Scenic Designer Brad Sales (doing double duty), Costume Designer Judie May (getting the looks just right, totally digging Rivera’s costumes), Lighting Designer Matt Gould, and Sound Designers Pat and Joe Price.
Theatre-in-the-round is a challenging endeavor, and Workshop did a fine homage.
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$12 General Admission
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