Dean Reynolds and Stephen E. Foxworthy surround Jay Hemphill in "Moonlight and Magnolias" at Spotlight Players

Moonlight and Magnolias is playwright Ron Hutchinson’s depiction of what might have happened in 1939 when movie producer David O. Selznick spent 5 days locked in a room with screenwriter Ben Hecht and director Victor Fleming to rework the script for their epic film, “Gone With the Wind”.  At times hilarious, at other times moralistic, it is an engaging two act journey into the world of Hollywood and movie making.

Brent Wooldridge directs the fast paced, perfectly tempoed action with a knockout cast of Jay Hemphill as Selznick, Dean Reynolds as Hecht, Stephen E. Foxworthy as Fleming and Allison Wilkerson as Selznick’s secretary Miss Poppenghul. Wooldridge shows a real understanding of the comic/moralistic counterplay of the script as the action rolls fast and furious at the onset, only pausing briefly in Act 1, then taking in the play’s serious notes in a fully developed Act 2, and then whirling it back to a quick-witted pace to finish things off.

Jay Hemphill as David O. Selznick and Stephen E. Foxworthy as Victor Fleming in Spotlight Players' "Moonlight and Magnolias"

All the performers are top-notch – Hemphill has commanding presence as Selznick, playing his comic moments in good coordination with his stressed out quest for a huge hit; Reynolds is amazingly understated in his turn as screenwriter Hecht, and it works very well, balancing the other two larger than life personalities which he shares the room with; Foxworthy is bombastic as director Fleming and uses his physical comedy skills to great advantage here, with wonderful facial expressions and great timing on all his gags: and Ms. Wilkerson plays her secretary smartly, as an able assistant who is just finally asked to ably assist too much. They make a great team onstage especially at the top of the play, starting off with a perfect stacatto riff of lines and action. And when the action turns to morals, as in how the GWTW script parallels with issues of Jews in Hollywood, the team does a fine job giving these ideas their due attention without sapping the life out of the play. It is well-written and well played.

Dean Reynolds as Ben Hecht and Allison Wilkerson as Miss Poppenguhl in Spotlight Players' "Moonlight and Magnolias"

Susan Yeaw’s set is wonderfully conceived and constructed and Molly Bellner’s lighting design adds to the perfect look of the stage. Costumes by Lyndsey Lord are simple, colorful and appropriate.

This all worked together to make for a very well-spent evening for Mrs K and I. If you get a chance, try to make it to one of the last two performances of this hit show.

Moonlight and Magnolias continues February 18 & 19 at Spotlight Players in Beech Grove. Call 317-767-2774 for reservations.

(Photos by: Phyllis Gant Munro)

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