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Bob Goepfert Reviews "Moonlight and Magnolias"

Lake George Dinner Theatre’s name is a little backward.   The normal impression of dinner theater is that they are places that offer mindless theater productions (usually comedies) that are presented after being served an average meal.

You should think of Lake George Dinner Theatre as a place that offers excellent theater and also serves a good dinner.   

For instance, through October 12, Lake George Dinner Theatre is offering a really good production of “Moonlight and Magnolias,” a play about the rewriting of the screenplay for the legendary film “Gone With the Wind.”   

The show is preceded by a meal that is enjoyable without being gourmet.  The limited choices are interesting versions of beef, pork and vegetarian.  And what would dinner theater be without chicken?

In other words Lake George Dinner Theatre is first and foremost about presenting theater that is light-hearted enough to be entertaining but thoughtful enough to be satisfying as a theatrical experience.  

“Moonlight and Magnolias” is a comedy that has studio head. David O. Selznick,  screenwriter, Ben Hecht, and  director, Victor Fleming, locked in a room for five days as they struggle to make a filmable version of the sprawling novel.

A major comedic point of the play is that the three men all thought the material was terrible.  Actually, Hecht thought it racist as well.  The way the men rationalize and solve the defects in Margaret Mitchell’s novel is both funny and revealing.

However, the major comic device is how Fleming and Hecht consider themselves prisoners held hostage by Selznick. As the days go on each of the men become more frantic and even delusional.  Thanks to superior pacing by director Terry Rabine the work moves from comedy to farce without becoming too silly to appreciate.

Rabine also does well in guiding his actors to be broad without losing the essence of their characters.   Jonathan Cantor is an excitable, always in motion Selznick but the actor shows the energy is honest for a man who has a lot to lose if the film flops.

Jarel Davidow finds all the cynicism of Hecht and his droll intellectual-based frustration is a nice counter to the physical activity taking place.  It is revealed that Hecht is unfamiliar with the story of “Gone with the Wind,” so the others act it out for him.   His reactions are as funny as the broad portrayals of the story.

Aaron Holbritter creates a macho Fleming who has little intellectual curiosity and is basically a no-nonsense director. He was pulled off the set of directing “The Wizard of Oz” to save this film.  He has no shame at being accused of slapping Judy Garland, because he claims he only did it once and he hated the Munchkins.  It’s a tough role to make funny but Holbritter does it.

Indeed, they all do it.  “Moonlight and Magnolias” is two hours of thoughtful fun that sits well after a good three-course meal.

“Moonlight and Magnolias” at Lake George Dinner Theatre at the Holiday Inn Resort, Lake George.  Through October 12.  Evening dinner shows Wednesdays-Saturdays, matinee luncheons Tuesdays-Thrusdays.   518-668-5762

Bob Goepfert is the arts editor for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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