If you like classic movies and the more positive Hollywood folklore surrounding the making of classic movies, the current comedic offering from Good Theater is made for you. It may get a little silly at times, but most audience members will find it hard to resist the play’s good-natured charm.

“Moonlight and Magnolias,” Ron Hutchinson’s 2004 play, concerns the final, desperate days in the rewriting of the script for “Gone With the Wind,” the 1939 film that gave the world its first cinematic mega-hit.

Based on real characters and some actual events, “Moonlight” gives a fictional account of what happened when the acclaimed producer David O. Selznick decided that he had to call in a new writer and director after filming had already begun.

Ben Hecht and Victor Fleming, after much pleading and cajoling from Selznick, reluctantly agreed to take on the task.

The action happens entirely in Selznick’s office, where the three spend a harried five days and nights, dining only on peanuts and bananas (for energy, Selznick maintains). They hilariously deride and belittle each other’s talents and motivations while coming up with a script.

The comedy is all over the place, from showbiz insider wisecracks to near Three Stooges-level physical comedy. The three principal actors, directed by Brian P. Allen, threw themselves wholeheartedly into Friday’s opening performance.

The lanky Stephen Underwood, as Selznick, was at the center of the creative storm as he incessantly reminded the others of the pleasures of success and the consequences of failure. Some of his funniest moments came when he and Tony Reilly, as director Fleming, acted out scenes from the book for the benefit of writer Hecht, played by Brent Askari.

Reilly reached near-absurd levels of physicality as he suffered the indignities of the film’s characters and director.

Askari, known for a series of caustic characters he has portrayed, had a good time with his Hecht, who believes that films should carry serious messages about “real people,” those who suffer discrimination despite their contributions to society.

Lynne McGhee completed the cast as Selznick’s put-upon secretary, Miss Poppenghul.

As Selznick says of audiences near the end of the two-hour play, “You have to give them what they want, not what’s good for them.”

This relatively light but very entertaining production goes most unashamedly for the laughs. If you want some of those, see the show. It might even be good for you.


Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.