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21 February 2008

Moonlight and Magnolias

From the C-T

Theater Review: "Moonlight and Magnolias" fast and frantic fun
by Tony Kiss
published February 21, 2008 10:00 am

By Tony Kiss

ASHEVILLE - What if the Three Stooges tried to write the screenplay for “Gone with the Wind,” in just five days – locked in a room with nothing to eat but bananas and peanuts?

But these Stooges aren’t Moe, Larry and Curly – they’re producer David O. Selznick, screenwriter Ben Hecht and director Victor Fleming.

That, in a nutshell, is “Moonlight and Magnolias,” a wildly entertaining slapstick comedy running at Asheville’s N.C. Stage Co. This freewheeling romp showcases the superb talents of Scott Treadway as Selznick, theater co-founder Charles McIver as Fleming and the increasingly impressive Willie Repoley as Hecht – plus Lauren Fortuna as the dutiful secretary Miss Poppenghul, who manages some good moments up against this powerhouse trio.

Loud and frantic, there’s a strong similarity here to “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged),” previously performed by the same company which starred Treadway and McIver acting out the Bard’s works in one evening. There is great on-stage chemistry with these guys, and it’s only made better with the addition of Repoley to the mix.

It’s 1939, and stressed-out Selznick has shut down the movie for lack of a suitable script. He’s called weary fix-it man writer Hecht for help, and summoned strong-willed Fleming from the almost completed “The Wizard of Oz.”

Trouble is, Hecht knows nothing of “Gone with the Wind,” so Selznick and Fleming will act it out for him, line by line, as he pecks out the screenplay for a big paycheck. Hecht wrestles with the book’s racist undertones, while Selznick and Fleming wrestle with each other, and all three sink into an almost psychotic stupor from the stress.

Everyone here shines under the direction of Ron Bashford. Given little more to do than reply “Yes, Mr. Selznick,” Fortuna steals a few moments, especially pushing a squeaky cart around the stage.

This one will leave you exhausted from laughter and the experience of watching this bunch work.

Contact Tony Kiss at 828-232-5855, via e-mail at TKiss@CITIZEN-TIMES.com


Anonymous said...

Yes yes, wonderful acting and whatnot. Charlie, Scott, Willie, and Lauren great yet again and whanot.

All jest aside, yes, the entire cast and director did a stellar job (although at some point I became obsessed with wanting to see Lauren do a 'stop, look around, and continue' take during one of the squeaky cart journeys

I just wanted to make sure it was mentioned that the set and lights were wonderful. The one main show off scene which played with dimming of various lights in the room working off of the wonderful central window was an orgasmic time.

My one complaint is that the abrupt end of intermission blackout caught me and many of my fellow audience members rushing back to our seats. I would like to take this time to apologize to the gentleman that I felt up in the darkness.

Ryan Madden
(I know it's not anonymous if I sign my name...I'm also too lazy to fix it)

Anonymous said...

This was a very good, professional production, and very enjoyable. But is it really the kind of material that NCStage should be doing? The main thematic material involving the argument between Selznick and Hecht seemed like the playwright's way of contriving a conflict, not a real artistic statement. Leave this kind of lightweight commercial stuff to Flatrock or ACT. NCStage should provide more substantial fare.

Anonymous said...

(Warning: Excessive use of quotation marks to follow.)

I do agree that the political arc of the show seemed a little contrived. I suppose that the playwright wanted to balance the farce with some "substance," but it was inserted into the script rather inelegantly and bordered on making the show a little disjointed at times.

That said, I do not agree that this is not the "type" of show NC Stage should be doing. To my perception, NC Stage has never purported itself to be the "edgy" or "alternative" theatre in town. They pick good scripts, and this was a good - albeit flawed in some ways - script. There's no crime in doing entertaining theatre.

I'm not sure that I'll get around to doing a full review of this one, and it will get buried in the comments here anyway, so here's a quickie:

Willie Repoley was at the top of his game, Scott Treadway firmly in his element once the madcap madcapness began. He started off a hair big for the space, but I settled into his rhythm nicely and thoroughly enjoyed him in the part. (By the way, is it just me, or does his "angry loud" voice sound IDENTICAL to Nathan Lane's as Timon in The Lion King? Anyone? Just me?) Oh and Most Hilarious Stage Freeze Ever award definitely goes to Scott. Charlie F-M and Lauren Fortuna brought it as always. Fortuna's squeaky cart sojourn was indeed quite funny; her mugging at a couple points was a bit over the top.

The set was beautiful and I agree with RM about the cool lighting effects with the window and room. Loved the pre-, mid- and post-show music. Really fun show.

Anonymous said...

Schlepped downtown in this cold to see Moonlight and Magnolias at NC Stage, a script with the interesting conceit of featuring the character Ben Hecht in a play in the style of Ben Hecht. Impeccable acting, flawless production values. The script was funny in oddly matched ways, sometimes like a frat house skit, sometimes like His Girl Friday, the club and the stiletto, but both getting the job done. The three main actors have widely divergent techniques and, I suppose, theories of what one should be doing on stage, but the more I thought about it, the better suited that was to a script which itself exhibits three almost irreconcilable worldviews–or, more exactly, three worldviews the reconciliation of which is its central struggle. Selznick is an attractive, eloquent apologist for mediocrity, Fleming a solid American pragmatist, Hecht a self-delighted idealist. Something in each of the actors– Scott’s apparently infinite adaptability; Charlie’s intelligence-- which cannot hide while playing the role of a stupid man, but makes the stupidity seem chosen and expressive; Willy’s edgy experimentalism, perfect for someone who is simply not going to play the same game as the others–alloyed beautifully with the characters and made more magic, perhaps than the script deserved. The Selznick character lets fly with expansive, almost sublime, passages in defense of cheesy writing and conception aimed at the lowest common denominator, at “Joe Blow and Jane Doe,” thus preemptively deflecting the criticism to which the script is most vulnerable. Clever.