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Slapstick & mayhem Moonlight in Edmonds
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Slapstick & mayhem Moonlight in Edmonds

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Moonlight and Magnolias
Phoenix Theatre
Through June 28


The Phoenix Theatre is a newly revived and expanded company in Edmonds that replaces Edge of the World Theatre, housed in a shopping center (with parking!) near the northend Costco. They have put hours of effort into revamping the theater space with freshly treated floors, walls, seats, and have created a lovely little theatrical venue. They are currently producing their second show there, Moonlight and Magnolias by Ron Hutchinson.

Moonlight is written in a way that makes it feel like a play written a number of years ago. In fact, it was written in 2004. It's already been produced all over the United States, because it's a very accessible and well-written play, with a small (four-person) cast. Perfect for regional companies.

It's also about the making of the movie, Gone With the Wind, which we all still know about as a major classic film. It's a well-researched, meticulously created script about how David O. Selznick had to halt production of this enormous, expensive film and essentially go back to zero to write a new script. Somehow, the combined might of many of the best film writers in Hollywood had failed to transform the sprawling civil war Margaret Mitchell epic into a good film. Selznick calls on Ben Hecht to "script doctor" the movie, but there are two huge problems: Hecht needs to do it in only five days, and he has never read the book! Selznick calls Victor Fleming, a director, off of the film he's working on, The Wizard of Oz, demands that Fleming leave Oz for this film and proceeds to lock all three of them into his office for five days to develop this new script.

The premise just begs for slapstick and mayhem, and we get it in spades. The script is so well written that it carries much of the weight of the show on its own, even with mediocre productions. However, the Phoenix has created a really great production, so it's all a very funny, lovely evening of theater.

Playing Selznick is Buddy Mahoney, who commands, bullies and orders with authority, but indicates an underlying insecurity that gives his character heart. Paul Custodio is Hecht, and carries the right tones of righteous indignation as he challenges Selznick about glorifying the Civil War southerners, who were fighting to keep slavery, just as the onset of World War II demonstrates the world's hatred of Jews. Jay Jankins as Fleming gets most of the slapstick lines, but drops them and picks them up so adroitly that we never feel he loses his personal dignity. Fleming embodies some deeply embedded anti-Semitism that comes out in the tension, which heightens Hecht's indignation about the whole project.

A benighted secretary, Melanie Calderwood, enters occasionally with food and messages, and even though we are never told that she also has to stay there five days, her torment becomes visible as the days wear on, adding to the fun. The set gets torn apart satisfactorily and in this tiny theater, you're very close to the mayhem.

Directed smartly by Mary Beth Dagg, set beautifully decorated by Dick Floyd and Debbie Palomera, and lots of sound queued up by Rick Wright, this is a funny evening, with satisfying overtones that give you something to think about as you leave the theater. For more information, go to www.thephenxtheatre.com or www.brownpapertickets.com or call 800-838-3006.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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