Selznick, Hecht and Fleming Burn the Moonlight Oil at MTC March 29 Opening

News   Selznick, Hecht and Fleming Burn the Moonlight Oil at MTC March 29 Opening Moonlight & Magnolias, Ron Hutchinson's behind-the-scenes account of the collaboration between film producer David O. Selznick, director Victor Fleming and screenwriter Ben Hecht as they write the screenplay for "Gone With the Wind," officially opens March 29 at Manhattan Theatre Club Off-Broadway.
Douglas Sills in Moonlight & Magnolias
Douglas Sills in Moonlight & Magnolias Photo by Joan Marcus

Preview began March 3. In the New York premiere of the 1939-set play, Douglas Sills (a Tony Award nominee for The Scarlet Pimpernel) is Selznick, David Rasche (MTC's Last Dance, Five by Tenn) is Fleming and Matthew Arkin (Rounding Third) is Hecht. Margo Skinner plays the put-upon Miss Poppenghul, Selznick's assistant.

Lynne Meadow, artistic director of Manhattan Theatre Club, which operates spaces Off-Broadway and on, directs the play. Her MTC credits include staging the hit, The Tale of the Allergist's Wife.

The farcical comedy is set in Selznick's office over five frantic days. The producer, unsatisfied with the current screenplay of "Gone With the Wind," has shut down the production, firing director George Cukor—thus bringing on unwelcome inquiries from gossip columnists and his tyrannical father-in-law, studio boss Louis B. Mayer. Desperate to get the much-publicized film back on track, he basically imprisons new director Fleming and script doctor Hecht in his office until they turn out a new screenplay. One problem for Selznick: Hecht hasn't even read the book. One problem for Hecht and Fleming: Selznick will only give them bananas and peanuts ("brain food") to eat.

The design team includes Santo Loquasto (set), Jane Greenwood (costumes), Rui Rita (lighting) and Obadiah Eaves (sound).

* For fans of the Arkin family, MTC had two Arkin brothers on its stages this season. Adam Arkin starred in the Broadway run of Donald Margulies' Brooklyn Boy, a world-premiere co-production by MTC and South Coast Repertory. It played the MTC Biltmore Theatre through March 27.

Moonlight & Magnolias had a previous staging at Chicago's Goodman Theatre beginning in May 2004. Steve Robman directed a cast that included Ron Orbach (Selznick), Rob Riley (Fleming) and William Dick (Hecht).

Hutchinson is the author of Rat in the Skull, which appeared at Chicago's Wisdom Bridge Theatre with Brian Dennehy, and at the Royal Court Theatre, the Public Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum and was revived in London's West End. He adapted Mikhail Bulgokov's Flight for the Royal National Theatre and wrote Burning Issues which appeared at the Hampstead Theatre, Beau! at the Haymarket Leicester Square and on a United Kingdom tour, Lags at the Theatre Royal Bristol and on a United Kingdom tour. His play Head/Case will be produced by the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Belgrade Theatre in fall of 2004.

Hutchinson has lived in Los Angeles for the past 20 years, where he works in TV and feature films. He won an Emmy in 1989 for "Murderers Among Us - The Simon Wiesenthal Story." His latest feature work includes rewrites on Fox Pictures "Flight of the Phoenix," to be released in 2005 and in television, USA Networks' "Traffic."

The performance schedule for Moonlight & Magnolias is Tuesday through Saturday at 8 PM, with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 PM, and Sunday evening performances at 7 PM. Tickets are $60 and can be reserved by calling CityTix at (212) 581-1212. For more information, visit www.ManhattanTheatreClub.com.

From Left: Matthew Arkin, Douglas Sills and David Rasche in <i>Moonlight &amp; Magnolias</i>
From Left: Matthew Arkin, Douglas Sills and David Rasche in Moonlight & Magnolias Photo by Joan Marcus