Vol. 9, No. 25 – September 14 – September 27, 2016 – Two on the Aisle

The ensemble works as a tightly knit team executing rapid-fire delivery.

Moonlight and Magnolias debuts at Rubicon
by Jim Spencer & Shirley Lorraine

The latest production at Ventura’s Rubicon Theatre Company is Moonlight and Magnolias. It is a fascinating comedy about the process of converting the book, Gone with the Wind, into a movie.

All the action takes place in the richly appointed MGM office of producer David O. Selznick, played by Patrick O. Vest. He calls in veteran screen writer Ben Hecht, portrayed by Joel Bryant, to make changes and add music, because the script is too mellow.  Victor Fleming, played by Cylan Brown, is also summoned by Selznick to assume direction of the movie.

Selznick explains that although Gone with The Wind is already several weeks into production, things aren’t working to his satisfaction and the three of them need to completely rewrite the script. He locks the door and announces they will remain there until the rewrite is complete.

They have five days in which to work this miracle.

The only one who periodically enters is Selznick’s secretary, Miss Poppenguhl – finely played by Jennifer Ridgway.  Ridgway displays a panoply of reactions and physical moves that are priceless.

As the week unravels, so do all the characters, as they frantically attempt to make script the best movie ever made.  Fueled apparently only by bananas, peanuts, adrenaline and possibly caffeine, the producer, writer and director work at maniacal speed. Selznick and Fleming act out the entire book for Hecht as he works hard to make sense of it all on paper.

During the course of the rewrite, many aspects of the work are explored including the Civil War, slavery and childbirth, all of which the writer objects to strongly as entertainment.  Nonetheless, the producer prevails over content, casting and continuity.

Whether a true account or not, the result is highly entertaining as ultimately Margaret Mitchell’s now famous words are kept mostly intact as a screenplay for the ages.

Director Stephanie Coltrin extracts fine performances and physical comedy from all the players. The ensemble works as a tightly knit team executing complicated choreographed movements that accent the repartee. Of special note is the rapid-fire delivery which maintains its cadence throughout. The actors must be exhausted at the conclusion of each performance.

Scenic and lighting designer Thomas S. Giamario once again works magic with a detailed setting. Together with Properties Designer T. Theresa Scarano, the flair of the era is evident.

Ventura County theatergoers are highly encouraged to catch one of the few remaining performances of this entertaining, enlightening and educational production. If they don’t, it will be Gone with the Wind. Fiddle-dee-dee.

Moonlight and Magnolias continues until Sunday, September 18, 2016. Shows: 2 p.m. matinees – Wed., Sat. & Sun. ($20-$54). 7 p.m.-Wed. ($20-$49). 8 p.m.-Thu., Fri., Sat ($20-$54). Rubicon Theatre Co., 1006 E. Main St. Ticketing and seat selection available 24/7 at www.rubicon.theatre.org.  667-2900.

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