Comedic whirlwind focuses on real-life Hollywood in 1939

LEWISTON — What would you get if you put three legendary moviemakers in a locked office full of peanuts and bananas for a five-day marathon screenplay rewrite of a classic 1930s book?

Why, “Gone with the Wind,” of course.

And that’s the basis for “Moonlight and Magnolias,” a whirlwind comedy coming to The Public Theatre stage beginning May 2.

Janet Mitchko, TPT’s co-artistic director and director of this production, said, “I really enjoy getting to the rehearsal hall every day” as her cast recreates a side-splitting look at a somewhat-true slice of Hollywood lore. She said the show is fast-paced and filled with witty banter, Tinsel Town trivia and slapstick comedy. It’s set in Hollywood in 1939 and inspired by real-life events.

“Moonlight and Magnolias” by Ron Hutchinson debuted in 2004 at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. This behind-the-scenes account of the collaboration among film producer David O. Selznick, director Victor Fleming and screenwriter Ben Hecht is a delicious mix of fact and fiction.

Selznick, the legendary movie producer, has a problem. The filming of “Gone with the Wind” is going down the drain, and he’s shutting down the movie until a new script can be written. For five days, three of the most talented men in Hollywood lock themselves in a room and set out to create the perfect screenplay for the greatest movie ever made.

Hecht has been hired to rewrite the script for the Civil Way epic, but he has never read the book. Fleming, just wrapping up his work as director of “The Wizard of Oz,” is jumping into the shoes of George Cukor, whom Selznick fired as “Gone with the Wind” director when production fell apart. And Selznick is in a panic over the $50,000-a-day costs of the bogged-down movie.

To aid Hecht with his new script, Selznick and Fleming recap all of the key scenes and characters — from Rhett and Scarlett to Prissy — complete with uproarious dialog and action.

The three professional actors playing these famous men have all appeared at various theaters across the country, as well as in Maine.

David Davalos portrays Selznick. He has appeared at TPT in “Rough Crossing,” “Gun-Shy,” “Red Herring” and “Broadway Bound.” Davalos is also a playwright, and his play, “Wittenberg,” was recently produced by Portland Stage.

Peter Simon Hilton plays Victor Fleming. He was last seen at TPT as Hyde in “Jekyll and Hyde,” as well as at Maine State Music Theatre, where he played Professor Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady.”

Screenwriter Ben Hecht will be played by Mike Anthony, who is well-known for his appearances onstage for the past few seasons at The Theater at Monmouth.

Keeping these men supplied with bananas and peanuts will be Cheryl Reynolds, a veteran of numerous stage productions throughout the area. She has the role of Miss Poppenghul, Selznick’s loyal and mostly level-headed secretary.

Mitchko commented that the actions of the three frantic filmmakers in “Moonlight and Magnolias” might be compared to another trio of that time … Moe, Larry and Curly, the famous Three Stooges.

Jennifer Madigan is designer of the big Hollywood office in which the men are locked. Lighting is by Bart Garvey, and costumes are by Kathleen Brown.

Performances of “Moonlight and Magnolias” are May 2-4 and 8-11. The Thursday and Friday shows are at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday shows begin at 8 p.m. Sunday shows are at 2 p.m. and there is an added Saturday Matinee at 2 p.m. on May 10.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $16 for groups of 10 or more and $5 for anyone 18 and under. Call 782-3200 or visit www.thepublictheatre.org for more information.

TPT will conduct its annual silent auction in the lobby and subscriptions for the 2014-15 season are also on sale.

The Public Theatre is at 31 Maple St. in downtown Lewiston.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.