Thought-provoking ‘Moonlight and Magnolias’ takes Apple Hill stage
A glimpse of 1930s Hollywood – for better or worse – is what audiences can expect in viewing Apple Hill Playhouse’s upcoming production of “Moonlight and Magnolias.”
An eye-opening look at the social issues that plagued the movie industry during the real-life filming of the hit movie, “Gone with the Wind,” is an important part of the farce by Ron Hutchinson, says Mike Crosby of Greensburg, who plays film producer David Selznick, but it doesn’t detract from the comedy aspect of the show.
“It truly is a delicate balance,” Crosby says. “It is not a farce in the traditional sense. Sure it is funny, but the show also tackles the serious issues of race, sexism and anti-Semitism which are rampant in Hollywood during this time.”
Based on historical facts
Selznick, who is Jewish, tries to downplay the problems that exist but eventually must come to terms with them and how they affect his place in business.
Dennis “Chip” Kerr, also from Greensburg, plays Ben Hecht, an American Jewish screenwriter, director, producer, playwright, journalist and novelist that is called in to rewrite the screenplay of “Gone with the Wind” – in only five days.
“The play, based on some truthful facts, shows how three men – Selznik, Hecht and Victor Fleming (played by Matt Mylnarski of Lower Burrell) pounded out this masterpiece in that short period of time,” Kerr says.
Also in the cast is Rachel Painter of Greensburg as Miss Poppenguhl, Selznick’s faithful secretary.
“Moonlight and Magnolias” is directed by Pamela Farneth of New Kensington, who also directed a production of the show for New Kensington Civic Theater.
Facing the challenges
She says her challenge as director is in making sure the dialogue keeps moving along – since the men are confined to one room for the duration of the play – and keeping the actors believable despite the farcical situation they are in.
“There is nothing particularly noteworthy about three men working on a screenplay in an office,” she says, “except they are doing it never leaving the room, uninterrupted day and night for five days without sleep and without food, except for bananas and peanuts.
“So keeping that momentum up and the speed and the delivery of the lines with each new scene is a challenge and something I worked on with the cast.”
Kerr says that “Moonlight and Magnolias” is a well-written and funny show that provides a glimpse of Hollywood in its heyday and the pressure of making a movie blockbuster.
Crosby describes it as equal parts funny and thought provoking.
“The audience will, of course, laugh, but hopefully they’ll also leave the theater thinking and talking about how the prejudices during that time are still prevalent today,” he says.
Vince D’Angelo of Oakmont is stage manager.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.