Lake George Dinner Theatre’s “Moonlight and Magnolias:” Seriously Funny
On a Thursday evening in mid-summer, Lake George Village is packed; the sidewalks barely containing the crowds.
There is, however, an alternative to the madness of Canada Street: the controlled and tightly contained madness of “Moonlight and Magnolias, ” the Lake George Dinner Theatre’s behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film “Gone With the Wind,” now playing at the Holiday Inn.
The three-act comedy stars Jonathan Cantor as producer David O. Selznick, Jarel Davidow as screenwriter Ben Hecht, Aaron Holbritter as director Victor Fleming and Betsy Holt as Selznick’s girl Friday, Miss Poppenghul.
The ensemble sustains the energy and speed for which Terry Rabine, the show’s director and the Lake George Dinner Theatre’s producer, is known.
Which, when you think about it, is rather remarkable.
The action is set in Selznick’s office, where Hecht works at pounding out a draft of the screenplay for ‘Gone With the Wind.” And is there anything more boring than watching a writer write? So it’s a testament to the skills of playwright Ron Hutchinson and Rabine himself that “Moonlight and Magnolias” can be described as “rollicking.”
Of course, to aid Hecht in his efforts, Selznick and Fleming must improvise the lines and gestures of every character, from Scarlett O’Hara to Rhett Butler, which provides the actors with plenty of opportunities to mince, joust, flap and faint dead away.
For all its slapstick, “Magnolias and Moonlight” has its serious moments. Set in 1939 as war clouds gather, Hecht is trying to help Jews escape Germany. He, as well as the audience, is left to ponder Selznick’s ambivalence toward his fellow Jews as well as his willingness to glorify on screen a society based on slavery.
Moreover, as Jonathan Cantor’s Selznick recognizes, film making in Hollywood is at its apogee in 1939; it’s the perfect time in which to set a play that both celebrates and eulogizes the movies.
“Magnolias and Moonlight” is a welcome break from the working class, romantic comedies that the Lake George Dinner Theatre typically presents, and if it’s successful, perhaps Rabine will feel confident that he can bring to the stage a wider range of material.
But whatever Rabine produces, it’s always the best of its kind. The Lake George Dinner Theatre is the smallest equity theater in the United States, but its professionalism and production values are nothing less than topnotch.
The Lake George Dinner Theatre’s 2013 season runs through October 12 with evening performances every Wednesday through Saturday; dinner seating at 6:30 and curtain at 8pm. Luncheon matinees are scheduled every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with seating at 11:30am and curtain at 1pm. More information is available at lakegeorgedinnertheatre.com