County Players Announces Open Call for Directors

County Players Announces Open Call for Directors for 63rd Season 2020-2021

WAPPINGERS FALLS, NY– County Players, one of the longest running volunteer community theaters is seeking qualified individuals to submit to direct productions for the 63rd Season 2020-2021. Deadline to submit interest form(s) is midnight, September 13, 2019.

Criteria for submission for individuals who have not previously directed at County Players:

  1. Be experienced directors, (directed at least 3 full-length productions.)
  2. Be willing to adhere by all guidelines and expectations of County Players.
  3. Submit a County Players Directors Form by September 13, 2019 for each piece they are interested in directing.
  4. Submit a resume of directing experiences, including pieces, theater, and timeframe.
  5. If requested, be available to meet with the Play Reading Task Force prior to November 1st for an interview that would also serve to help assess qualified candidates.
  6. Provide references upon request.

The 2020-22021 Season productions are scheduled for July, September, and November 2020, and February and May 2021. The deadline to submit director interest form(s) is midnight, September 13, 2019.

For information on submitting to direct, a directors form, the company, the proposed list of shows for the 2020-2021 season, current season, and past productions please visit countyplayers.org.

About County Players

County Players, one of the longest-running community theatre companies in the region, was founded in 1958 and in that time has presented over 200 productions and served thousands of theatergoers, and still manage to keep prices at an affordable level following the mission to “delight, educate, and challenge the community and to nurture creative expression, through theatre and the performing arts of the highest quality.”

Contacts:

Christine Crawfis

President and Play Reading Task Force Chair, email: ccrawfis@hvc.rr.com Cell: 845-380-0155

Joseph Pettignano, Publicity Chair, email: jpettignano@gmail.com, cell: 845-489-3086

REVIEW: Steel Magnolias – Clove Creek Dinner Theater

Review By Josie Grant

“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”  – Truvy, Steel Magnolias

Life is a contradiction. Bitter and sweet; awfully good; its storms survived and then made beautiful in their aftermath by steel magnolias. Comedy and tragedy are not a part of life, but are life; a paradox which must be embraced if it is to be overcome. What better way to show this delicate balance of navigating and surviving life’s ups and downs than through the story of six strong women and their fierce determination to support one another?

Robert Harling wrote Steel Magnolias after his sister died of complications of diabetes in 1985. It opened Off-Broadway in 1987, was adapted into a film in 1989, and made its Broadway debut in 2005. In order to come to terms with the loss, he focused on the humor and lightheartedness his family used to cope with the seriousness of the situation.

Photo credit: Louisa Vilardi Photography

The play, set in small town Louisiana in the 80’s, centers on a group of southern women powerfully bonded by their shared experiences. Clove Creek Dinner Theater’s production tackles the daunting task of assembling a group of women who capable of portraying the bond established by the characters in the span of decades, in a matter of weeks. The play opens in a beauty salon, where advice is dispensed like hairspray. The story unfolds entirely within the salon, with each character stopping by not only for the cosmetology services the events of life require, but also, indeed probably more so, for the camaraderie of friends who have become family. The single set works nicely with Clove Creek’s stage and the dinner theater gives the intended moments of connectedness the pleasant, familiar “informal therapy session” feel you might get from a wise barman – or a good hair stylist.

Through thoughtful casting, Director Teresa Gasparini, who has served as the Artistic Director of Clove Creek since its inception in 2015, enables each member of this strong ensemble to shine by letting each one bring their own unique touch to the characters.

Laurel Riley-Brown, complete with the big hair of the 80’s, effectively plays kind hearted gossip and salon owner, Truvy. Her newly hired assistant, Annelle, played by Maddy M. Murphy, has a wide character arc. Ms. Murphy’s portrayal is believable every step of the way, and in the play’s closing moments in particular, quite moving.

Photo credit: Louisa Vilardi Photography

Patricia Holzhauer, as Clairee, the sophisticated widow of the former mayor, and Stephanie Hepburn, as her long-time friend and wealthy curmudgeon Ouiser, successfully strike the love-hate relationship indicative of an old friendship with their portrayals.

Rena Gavigan, who plays the kind-hearted strong willed Shelby, and Kit Colbourn, who plays M’Lynne, her passionate but stubborn mother, are both perfect in their delivery of what each would be feeling as a young woman facing a limiting disease, and as the mom who only wants what’s best for her.

As the contradiction in its title suggests, Steel Magnolias is both art imitating life, and life imitating art; and Clove Creek’s production will have you laughing through the tears.

Steel Magnolias plays through Sunday, August 18th at Clove Creek Dinner Theater, 18 Wastage Business Center Drive, Fishkill, NY (845) 202-7778; www.clovecreekdinnertheater.com

Photo credit: Louisa Vilardi Photography

PRESS RELEASE: Bridge Street Theatre presents “…And Every Tale Condemns Me For a Villain”

Two Solo Shows in Rotating Rep on Characters from Shakespeare

THRICE TO MINE (world premiere) created and performed by Roxanne Fay
SHYLOCK by Gareth Armstrong, performed by Steven Patterson
August 15 – 25, 2019
Bridge Street Theatre Mainstage
44 West Bridge Street, Catskill, NY

One of the things actor Steven Patterson discovered during his first run with Gareth Armstrong’s play “Shylock” at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre back in 2007 was a way of getting inside Tubal, its main character, by viewing him as a Catskills tummler.

“Gareth was determined to make our production in Florida (the first he’d authorized in English by anyone other than himself) unique – not just a carbon copy of the one he’d toured all over the world for a decade. He tailored the script in ways that made it more friendly to an American audience, as opposed to his original British one. He forced me (gently) to find my own way even when I begged him to ‘PLEASE just let me know how you solved this’. However, the major way we found to make the show more distinctly ‘American’ was to draw on the bottomless wealth of immigrant Jewish humor that’s so much a part of our theatrical heritage here in the U.S. Jacob Adler’s Yiddish Theatre. The great Jewish comics of the vaudeville circuit and radio (the Marx Brothers, Jack Benny, Fanny Brice, George Burns, etc). And especially the Borscht Belt jokes of the vintage Catskills resorts. All gave me a real ‘in’ into this character. This guy is trying hard to please, trying to make sure everybody’s having the best possible time. And when approaching a play as full of potential landmines as ‘The Merchant of Venice’, that tack proved to be ideal. Now that my husband John (who’s directing this production) and I have been residents here in the Catskills for more than a decade, it feels as though some of that history has seeped into my bones and I only hope I’m at least living up to the second definition of a tummler – a lively, mischievous man!  Can’t wait to share this unique, funny, and tragic vision of Jewish identity with audiences here in the Hudson Valley. ‘They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat!’”

Patterson brings his performance in “Shylock” to the stage of Catskill’s adventurous Bridge Street Theatre from August 15-25, in rotating repertory with “Thrice To Mine”, Roxanne Fay’s one-woman show that tells the fascinating story of the woman on whom Shakespeare based the character of Lady Macbeth. Generally perceived as villainous in the plays in which they appear, these two characters receive far more probing and sympathetic scrutiny in both these bracing theatrical inquiries. Were these two “villains” really villains?

“Shylock” and “Thrice To Mine” will be performed together in Catskill under the title “…And Every Tale Condemns Me For a Villain”. Recommended for audiences ages 13+, the plays alternate performances on Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30pm and Saturdays and Sundays at 3:00 and 7:00pm from August 15 – 25, 2019 at Bridge Street Theatre, 44 West Bridge Street, in Catskill, NY, just a block and a half west of Main Street across the Uncle Sam Bridge, which spans Catskill Creek.

Steven Patterson in Gareth Armstrong’s Shylock

You can view the shows individually or in “one fell swoop” at Saturday and Sunday Marathons (with a break in between). General Admission is $25, Students 21 and under are only $10. Discounted advance tickets are available online at thrice.brownpapertickets.com and shylock.brownpapertickets.com or by calling 800-838-3006. Tickets will also be sold at the door one half hour prior to each performance on a space available basis. “Pay What You Will” performances take place on Thursday evening August 15, Friday evening August 16, and at both the matinee and evening performances of the Sunday Marathon on August 18 (“Pay What You Will” tickets are available only at the door one half hour prior to these performances). For more details, visit the theatre online at BridgeStreetTheatre.org.

Events at Bridge Street Theatre are supported in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and by Public Funds from the Greene County Legislature through the Cultural Fund administered in Greene County by the Greene County Council on the Arts.

Steven Patterson in Gareth Armstrong’s Shylock

PERFORMANCE CALENDAR:
THRICE TO MINE – Thursday August 15 @ 7:30pm (“Pay What You Will”)
SHYLOCK – Friday August 16 @ 7:30pm (“Pay What You Will”)
SHYLOCK – Saturday August 17 @ 3:00pm
THRICE TO MINE – Saturday August 17 @ 7:00pm
THRICE TO MINE – Sunday August 18 @ 3:00pm (“Pay What You Will”)
SHYLOCK – Sunday August 18 @ 7:00pm (“Pay What You Will”)
SHYLOCK – Thursday August 22 @ 7:30pm
THRICE TO MINE – Friday August 23 @ 7:30pm
THRICE TO MINE – Saturday August 24 @ 3:00pm
SHYLOCK – Saturday August 24 @ 7:00pm
SHYLOCK – Sunday August 25 @ 3:00pm (Closing performance)
THRICE TO MINE – Sunday August 25 @ 7:00pm (Closing performance)

REVIEW: Mamma Mia! – Up in One Productions

The Beach is Open at the Center for Performing Arts with MAMMA MIA!

Review By Joe Eriole

Up In One Productions’ presentation of the wildly popular sensation, Mamma Mia!, began its four week run at the Center for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck to a packed and enthusiastic house. With music and lyrics by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson and book by Catherine Johnson, the iconic and irresistible ABBA songbook tells the story of Sophie, a young woman searching for her birth father. Sophie has obtained a few leads by peeking at her mother’s diary from 21 years ago. The impetus to seek out her father is her impending wedding. The play opens on (and never leaves) the idyllic Greek island where the wedding will take place, and where the three potential dads met and courted Sophie’s mother, Donna, two decades earlier. Each of them moved on from the fling all those years ago, but Donna stayed, hoping to transform the island into a resort, and making it a home for her and Sophie. Donna has never told any of the men that they may be Sophie’s father, and indeed, she does not know herself which of the three it might be.

To say that the script strains credulity here and there is to put it charitably; the likelihood that the three potential dads, or Donna, would need Two Acts (or two hours), to put two-and-two together is clearly a stretch. But, in weaving the story using the lyrics of these incredibly appealing songs, which were not originally written to be linked together, were released generations ago, and in some cases, decades apart, is actually a happy and effective achievement. The soundtrack of the show is a delight.   

This production makes an impression before the first word is spoken, or the first note sung. The set of the Greek Island Taverna is lovely, and in the Center’s space, where the audience enters the house by crossing onto the stage, the beach setting is particularly inviting. As designed by Will Cornell and Keli Syder, and with Ms. Snyder as the Scenic Artist, the set is a star of the show in its own right.

Directed and choreographed by Kevin Archambault, the production manages to present sharply coordinated performances of the large company numbers which are reminiscent of those put on the much larger London and Broadway stages where the show was brought to life, despite the Center’s more intimate stage space. The live pit orchestra, perched high above the Taverna the entire show, is led through the lively and challenging score by veteran helmsman Matt Woolever.

Rachel Karasay gives us a Sophie we root for; a delightful characterization who we have no doubt is the great achievement of her mother’s life, the great love of her fiancee, and the apple of her many fathers’ eyes. Amy LeBlanc as Donna is believable in her struggles to keep the dream of the Taverna alive while navigating the challenges of single motherhood, and wonderfully resistant to the sudden appearance of her former paramours. Ms. LeBlanc also does justice to the show’s two most moving songs, Slipping Through My Fingers and The Winner Takes it All.

Donna’s two best friends, Rosie and Tanya (Victoria Howland and Emily Woolever, respectively) are the life of this party. Their performance of Chiquita introduces their combined talents to the audience with joyful exuberance. Woolever gives a performance clearly conveying that Tanya is more than the the objects of her desire can handle, but always plays as a true friend to the beleaguered Donna.  

Howland is a familiar face to Rhinebeck Theater-goers, and here she gives a performance so engaging that one is drawn to her no matter where she is on stage. A gifted comic actor with tremendous vocal range (notable here, where much of the music is in deceptively challenging keys), Howland is a gem in this role.

Like Donna, the newlyweds-to-be have their best friends for moral support. Jordan Stroly as Lisa and Michelle Moughan as Ali, play their roles with all the authentic enthusiasm of true friends and excited bridesmaids and are called upon in the score to add depth to various signature songs  which they each do beautifully. Likewise, Sky’s bachelor buddies, (Dennis Wakeman as the indomitable Pepper, in a scene not to be missed with Woolever and Tom Bunker as the happily recalcitrant Eddie) are comically supportive of the goings-on.

The men of Mamma Mia! are brought to life in this production by a cast of actors who lean into their roles with the happy wit required of them in this island paradise. As Sophie’s betrothed, Sky, P.J. Kraus is charmingly in love. The multi-national trio of Donna’s former suitors are played by Chris Gilbert, as Bill, who is playfully ensnared by one of Donna’s two friends (no spoiler here!), Kevin McCarthy sweetly playing Harry, a former headbanger who has settled down a bit and has a secret, and Rik Lopes, who plays the most serious present threat to win Donna’s heart, Sam, with a humor and empathy which makes it clear why he’s got a chance.   

A lot is asked of the large ensemble in this show, who fill the stage in numerous crowd-pleasing moments throughout this show, including a show-ending crowd-participation segment that will send the audience home with a memory of a beach resort somehow tucked into a theater in Rhinebeck, and the soundtrack of this joyful show in their heads for a long time after the lights come up.

The show runs through August 18. Tickets are available by phone at the Box Office at Box Office: (845) 876-3080, at the door (although advance ticket purchase is strongly encouraged), and online at  https://www.centerforperformingarts.org/all-shows-sp-1131460608/item/mamma-mia

PRESS RELEASE: Ancram Opera House Presents “The Brothers Size” Aug. 8-25

Moving and Complex Portrayal of Brotherhood Weaves Together Poetry, Music, and Yoruba Mythology

The Ancram Opera House will present The Brothers Size over three weekends in August. Performances are Thursday – Sunday, Aug. 8-11, 15-18, 22-25. Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows are at 8pm; Sunday shows are at 3pm. There will be two audience talk-backs on Aug. 11 and 18 after the Sunday matinee performances.Tickets are $30 at ancramoperahouse.org/the-brothers-size

Set in the Louisiana bayou, The Brothers Size is a tough and tender drama about the unbreakable bond between two brothers, one hardworking and steady, one just out of prison and aimless– and the outsider who threatens to transform the very ground on which they’ve reunited. 

Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Tony-nominated author of “Choir Boyand Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Moonlight,” The Brothers Size has been called “the greatest piece of writing by an American playwright under 30 in a generation or more” (Chicago Tribune). 

“In The Brothers Size, ritual and reality intertwine in a story that transcends culture and time,” said Director Martine Kei Green-Rogers, President of the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas and Professor of Theater at SUNY: New Paltz. “The audience is at once the community, the witness and the judge. The Ancram Opera House is a very intimate space, which makes it the perfect venue for this production.” 

Two special patron events are planned.  On August 15 theater critic Dan Dwyer, host of the theater interview program OFF SCRIPT on local NPR station WHDD, will host a pre-show dinner/discussion at the Stissing House in Pine Plains. Tickets are $30 and include the performance and a 15% dinner discount. On August 23, award-winning playwright and screenwriter Darrah Cloud will host a pre-show dinner/discussion at the Copake General Store.  Tickets are $65 and include the performance, dinner and a glass of wine.  Further information is available on www.ancramoperahouse.org.

The Ancram Opera House, located in southern Columbia County, is an intimate rural performance hall showcasing contemporary theatre and alternative cabaret by visionary theater and musical artists. 

PREVIEW: Hell is Empty; All the Devils Are Here – The New Deal Creative Arts Center

Presented at Vanderbilt Mansion August 3 &4, 2019 at 5:30 in the evening

By Wendy Urban-Mead

A Festival of the plays of William Shakespeare adapted and directed by Joe Eriole

The cast of Hell is Empty; All the Devils Are Here

There will be some wicked talent on the portico at the Vanderbilt Mansion on August 3 & 4.  The actors in this New Deal Creative Arts Center production immediately draw you in and take you by the throat, and often the heart, and keep you on the edge of your seat throughout this unique adaptation. They invite the audience to muse with them as they contemplate acts of murder, adultery, and every kind of betrayal.

The actors’ deep awareness of what they are saying, and why, render the stories accessible regardless of your familiarity with the material. As is always true in performing Shakespeare, when the actors understand the language and really deliver the emotional content, one forgets one is listening to 16thC English. It’s true here, and then some, and the clarity of diction is a pure delight to the listener. From Lady Macbeth to Lavinia, from Brutus to Edgar, the emotional and verbal delivery is vivid, potent, and gorgeous.

Enormous credit is due to the sensitive and supportive directing of Joe Eriole, as well as the commitment and talent of a superior troupe of actors. Hell is Empty: All the Devils Are Here is a seamlessly stitched-together script foregrounding rank villainy from the works of Shakespeare. All words uttered are the Bard’s. Eriole also crafted the script, featuring monologues and interactive scenes from a selection of Shakespeare’s timeless villains to examine the question: what leads someone to commit an evil act? Secondarily, how does the doing of evil affect the person afterward? Though drawing from ten different plays (Henry V, Henry VIII, HamletOthello, Richard III, Titus Andronicus, King Lear, Measure for MeasureJulius CaesarandMacbeth), Eriole offers a compellingly unified arc from opening to conclusion, resulting in a two-act play exploring the instinct for evil in the human condition, and the impacts of evil on the human spirit.

Joshuah Patriarco leads cast members in Julius Caesar

The meticulously woven script begins with a cleverly constructed introduction of all of the characters we will see over the coming two acts. The result is that we are immediately teased by the knowledge of the characters we will see, but are then left delightfully anticipating their reappearance. Lady Macbeth and Macbeth appear, for example, in the opening rollout, and then not again until they feature prominently in Act Two – in scenes that render transparent Lady Macbeth and her consort’s individual and mutual ambition, opening the door to their tragic descent. Josie Grant (Lady Macbeth) and Harrison Forman (Macbeth) powerfully illustrate the decisive moment when they each cross that line, and its effect on each of them as well as on their relationship. Another innovative device is the use of the Chorus (played to great effect by Michael Juzwack), and the iconic Iago and Hamlet (Tamara Cacchione & Erin Hebert, respectively), here seen “extracted” from the context of their own dramas, and instead as the theme-setting “voices in our heads” which invite us to share in the descent or ascent of the characters.   

Audiences familiar with the Bard’s work will also be intrigued by the villains featured as well as those left out. Eriole aims by his choices that our time spent with Shakespeare’s villains give us a sense of the varied slippery and subtle, ways the boundaries of our behavior become blurred. Let us consider one of several story threads rendered in Hell Is Empty: All the Devils Are Here.

We encounter Angelo, the interim ruler of Vienna, from Measure for Measure.  Richly brought to life by Melissa Matthews, Angelo shows us an upright if rigid enforcer of justice, self-assured and grounded in the law. He renders himself unrecognizable – to himself – by attempting to extort sexual favors from Isabella, an even more upright and irresistibly appealing young woman. Erin Hebert offers a commanding Isabella who is at once virginal, full of moral clarity, and eloquent. As her brother Claudio notes: “she hath prosperous art/ When she will play with reason and discourse, /And well she can persuade.” An unforgettable scene ensues between Isabella and Claudio, played by Harrison Zraly with quicksilver alertness to his character’s moral danger. The denouement of this episode shows us a broken Angelo, consumed with remorse; a deeply effective contrast to the tragic rash of deaths which follow as the consequences of the other fateful decisions of the characters. 

Erin Hebert & Harrison Zraly in a scene from Titus Andronicus.

Director Joe Eriole has assembled a company of eighteen actors playing thirty-eight roles, irrespective of gender. They take on the challenge with energy and impressive, nimble effectiveness. For example, Molly Feibel is both a remote, magisterial, and cruel Titus Andronicus, and then moments later re-emerges – with entirely new body language and tone – as the sexually driven and conniving Goneril. Another notable transformation is seen in Joshuah Patriarco who appears in one breath-taking scene as a frightening, manipulative, and truly diabolical Gloucester (Richard III), and then later as a noble and commanding Caesar. Every actor in this production plays more than one role, and it is a credit to the craft of everyone involved that each character is distinct and recognizable without contrived efforts to distinguish them artificially.

One of the threads stitching the piece together is the interwoven presence of Iago (from Othello), as a kind of devil’s muse. Iago is played with disarmingly waifish, yet evil charm by Cacchione, goading the various characters to find and act on their baser motivations. Relative newcomers to the Hudson Valley theatre scene, Michael Wagner, Erin Hebert, Harrison Zraly and Valentino Coniglio, are exciting artists happily featured in this production.

This compelling look into the heart of villainy will be performed at the Vanderbilt Estate house’s west-facing portico. Its location is far from incidental, offering a stunning visual backdrop, enhanced by simple and compelling costuming and set choices. The performance space, delineated by classic columns and arches, lends gravity and beauty to a play that fully inhabits this majestic setting. It is a production of the Hyde-Park-rooted New Deal Creative Arts Center. Its name intentionally calls upon its location in the home town of President F.D. Roosevelt, whose New Deal during the Great Depression included extensive sponsorship of the arts. New Deal Creative Arts was founded by Hyde Park native, Teresa Gasparini, who serves as its Executive Director. Since 2017, she and her creative team have worked to make real an inclusive space for artists and audiences. Their vision has come to life firmly grounded in Hyde Park, forging fruitful partnerships with the Hyde Park Central School district, the Town of Hyde Park, and with the local National Parks Service historic sites.

Hell is Empty; All the Devils Are Here, from the works of William Shakespeare. Adapted and Directed by Joe Eriole.  Production photos by Louisa Vilardi. The actors wear stunning jewelry generously loaned by Red Hook artist Dennis Higgins.

Performances are August 3 and 4, at 5:30 PM, at the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, in Hyde Park, NY. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the event or online: newdeal-shakespearefest.eventbrite.com

Wendy Urban-Mead

Wendy Urban-Mead is active in local theater as an actor as well as behind-the-scenes, with credits this year including Assistant Director for the Rhinebeck Theatre Society production of The Secret Garden,  playing Verges in the CenterStage production of Much Ado About Nothing, assistant stage manager, dramaturg, and props mistress for The Dresser. Notable previous credits include roles in Ragtime and Les Miserables and in the part of  “Stage Manager” in Our Town. She is past president of the Hyde Park Theatre Parents’ Association, and is currently a member of the Staatsburg Library Board. She has also been involved as actor and organizer with the annual St. James Episcopal Church of Hyde Park’s historic graveyard tours. Her day job is as a history professor in the Bard Master of Arts in Teaching Program and in the Bard Prison Initiative. She has published numerous articles on the history of Christianity in colonial southern Africa, and is the author of The Gender Piety: Family, Faith, and Colonial Rule in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe (Ohio University Press, 2015.)

Tamara Cacchione as Iago and Erin Hebert as Hamlet

REVIEW: Moonlight and Magnolias at County Players

Review by Josie Grant

What if you could get a glimpse into one day in the life of a legendary Hollywood producer? How about five days? And what if those five days were the make it or break it moments of the most successful film in box office history? Ron Hutchinson’s farce Moonlight and Magnolias provides us just such an insight.

The year is 1939. A year film historians often rate as the greatest in the history of Hollywood, producing classics such as The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights, Of Mice and Men, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to name a few. Halfway through Hollywood’s Golden Age, audience members filled theaters like never before to witness some of the most important movie industry milestones such as the first color movie, the first talking movie, The Oscars, and animated cartoons. It was hard times and America lapped up the needed escapism that Hollywood offered.

David O. Selznick, a film studio executive, was fiercely determined to prove himself during this time of greatness and make his new project a success. He began filming what was probably history’s most long-awaited movie.

Production on Gone With The Wind, an adaptation of the 1936 best-selling novel by Margaret Mitchell, started years earlier and was difficult and often delayed. A three year national search was launched to find his Scarlet O’Hara (Vivian Leigh) and negotiations of an exorbitant contract to secure his Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) were reached. Once filming began however, Selznick had a problem. The screenplay just didn’t work. Unwilling to compromise on his vision, he shut down production, which cost him thousands of dollars a day, and summoned famed screenwriter Ben Hecht, who had never read the book, and director Victor Fleming, pulled from the set of Wizard of Oz, possibly for questionable behavior, to his office. Although both men doubted the success of an overlong epic historical romance film based during the civil war, they agreed to give him five days. To ensure the re-write was successful, Selznick instructed his long-suffering secretary Miss Poppenghul to hold all calls and provide a steady supply of peanuts and bananas, and locked the door to his office, imprisoning the three men with only a bathroom, a typewriter, and the aforementioned “brain food.” The re-write begins.

Hutchinson’s play is based on an excerpt from Hecht’s autobiography about the five day event. It’s easy to imagine a playwright being intrigued by such a scene and the scenario lends itself to the kind of Hollywood fodder people love. But it was also a time when anti-semitism was a concern to the Jewish community in Hollywood and America at large and the playwright makes an attempt to address these racial challenges. Given the political climate in 2019, many of the references may strike a chord differently than perhaps they would have in 2004 when the play was written. But given Hutchinson’s cursory exploration of such issues, comedy prevails.

There are many ways the portrayal of those five days could go awry. The frenetic nature of the play could, in less capable hands, fall flat, leaving audiences either bored or overstimulated. But director Michael J. Frohnhoefer hits a happy medium between the two. He has perfectly cast each character and his set design, complete with a replicate of Selznick’s office, allows a space in which the actors can work their magic and thrive.

Rick Meyer, as David O. Selznick, delivers a very strong performance, portraying the famed producer’s passion with ease. He embodies the character’s dogged determination which drives the action from start to finish. The energy he puts into Selznick never makes you nervous, but instead compels you to get right in the thick of it with him and get the job done. When the two men he entrusts to help him achieve success contemplate leaving, he has you crying out “no, don’t go!” And when he implores his fellow prisoners with “I can taste this movie” you know exactly what he’s feeling.

Robert McCarthy is charming as the tightly wound but dashing director Victor Fleming. Sure he once slapped Judy Garland – “but just once!” McCarthy’s portrayal of a character who could easily come across as arrogant and unlikable instead has just the right amount of confidence and empathy to counteract his burly demeanor. He may be under contract, but, you believe he is also personally invested in getting this project off the ground.

Ben Hecht, the play’s straight man, is aptly played by Jim Granger. The character provides most of the political statement that Hutchinson intended, but Granger’s delivery is never overbearing. He also delivers some of the plays funniest lines and does so in a way that brings about true belly laughs at the absurdity of the situation.

Rounding out the cast is Molly Feibel, whose portrayal of Miss Poppenghul leaves you wondering why the character is not seen more often. She’s perfect as the ever ready, ever on call, step ahead of you secretary and you can’t help but chuckle every time she was at the right place at the wrong time.

With its slapstick comedy and frantic pace, the play could feel overwhelming. But this ensemble handles the material like pros and keeps you glued to the action from the desperate summoning of movie industry moguls, to the balled-up discarded script and banana peel laden finish.

Moonlight and Magnolias plays through Saturday, July 27th at County Players at the Falls Theatre, 2682 W Main Street, Wappingers Falls, NY 845-298-1491 www.countyplayers.org.

The Cast of Moonlight and Magnolias