Moonlight and Magnolias

Moonlight and Magnolias Adelaide Rep 2024The Adelaide Repertory Theatre. Arts Theatre. 6 Jun 2024


The Adelaide Rep delivers another strong production with its latest performance of Moonlight and Magnolias.


It's Hollywood 1939, and film producer David O. Selznick has a crisis. Production on Gone With The Wind has halted - the Writer and Director just don't 'get it. And with the ever-present - yet unseen shadow of Louis Mayer (co-founder of MGM), Selznick needs a new Director and Scriptwriter. And now! 

Lingering in the background is Selznick's own darkness - of just maybe over-committing on his investment? And thereto following in his own father's footsteps of bankruptcy.


The Solution? Find a new Director and a new Script Writer immediately and complete it within 5 days.

Enter Ben Hecht, as the experienced and successful replacement Script Writer. There is one hurdle however - he hasn't even read the book. 

Add in Victor Fleming as Director - who's been plucked from directing Judy Garland & Munchkins in a film called Wizard Of Oz (which he prophesies will be a loser) and what could possibly go wrong? Well, plenty.


Selznick's first safety-net is to lock all three in his office until the script is delivered. 

Their only sustenance is bananas and peanuts. Apart from a typewriter and plenty of paper, that's it.


What ensues over the next two Acts will ultimately redefine film history and shape careers.


The play Moonlight and Magnolias (written in 2004 by the now American, Ron Hutchinson) becomes a mix of storyline, farce and slapstick. A fly-on-the-wall observation.

But there is a darker counterbalance too. This was at the time of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, and Selznick and Hecht are Jews. So too Louis Mayer of MGM. Even the British actor Leslie Howard (Steiner) rates a mention. 


Act I is so busy, it’s as if The Three Stooges were writing and playing Gone With The Wind - such are the manic moments. Yet too, these moments almost act as a guise or a deflection to what is seen as the hopeless and mammoth 5-day task of rewriting a film script.  


Yet intertwined, there is another event occurring in another place, and the slapstick scene explores this. It is ostensibly on how to best film a slap-scene (with the cast practising on each other!) but more importantly it is an allegory of the treatment then, and violence towards, the Jews in Europe. It is a continuing theme - though perhaps not fully explored on stage. 


If Act I centres upon delivering a tight-deadline script from this triumvirate, then Act II delivers conclusions and insights. A stage full of peanuts, banana skins, and exhausted bodies requires minimal explanation of the time, effort and commitment consumed. 


Yet even with a final script delivered, doubts surface and linger.

Is the ending right? Will the script deliver? Will it be a success? Should they take a set-fee, or a percentage-of-the-box?  

It's this ever-evolving storyline that maintains the pace and interest throughout.

It is too a subplot of humanity and morality. And it is now that it then engages the audience.


Some 80 years on, we know the answer. Gone With The Wind is a mammoth success. Yet too, those real-life social issues are as much at the forefront today as they were in 1939.  There is still the Middle East conflict, and from the play: "I can't deal with the race question"  or, "Great movie making is dead". What is old is new again.


This production needs a clear direction and a strong cast of four. 

Harry Dewar directs his multi-level production with strong purpose and subtly. Clearly appreciating his cast and encouraging them to explore. 


Adam Gregory Shultz as Selznick is powerful, driven and determined - yet full of self-doubt. His accent tends to be general-American - something more regional might add depth. Terry Crowe (Ben Hecht) is almost laconic and consistently & wonderfully underplayed to full effect. Scott Battersby (Victor Fleming) delivers a fine sense-of-reason and importantly becomes the conduit between cast and audience. And Rebecca Gardiner (Miss Poppenghul) delightfully under-plays her role reinforcing that less can be a whole lot more.


At the moment this production is more an historical and a philosophical piece, rather than a comedy - yet too this element will be heightened during its run. Well recommended and runs to 15th of June at the Arts Theatre.


Brian Wellington


When: 6 to 15 Jun

Where: The Arts Theatre