LIVE THEATRE: Bananas, peanuts and the creation of a Hollywood hit

LIVE THEATRE: Bananas, peanuts and the creation of a Hollywood hit

WHITE ROCK — Boxes of bananas and bags of peanuts are loaded in and ready for consumption on stage at Coast Capital Playhouse this week.

The food is crucial to the staging of Moonlight and Magnolias, the latest production for White Rock Players’ Club.

Ron Hutchinson’s play is a fictionalized account of the effort to rewrite the movie script for Gone With the Wind on the fly. Film producer David O. Selznick (played by Fred Partridge) enlists writer Ben Hecht (Paul Ferancik) and film director Victor Fleming (Ryan Johnson) to get the job done on the quick, so the gang of three is locked in an office, aided by Selznick’s secretary Miss Poppenghul (Laine Henderson), with nothing but bananas and peanuts to eat over a period of five days.

“We’ll find out just how much is consumed during the run of the play,” Partridge said with a laugh. “We’re trying to balance eating peanuts and speaking, so it’s going to be an interesting juggling act. We’ve got some big bags of peanuts backstage, and bananas, we’ll be bringing them in by the box, because we’re using real bananas. That may turn out to be a decision we’ll regret, but we’ll find out.”

Ryan Mooney directs the comedy-drama, which opens Friday, April 4 following two evenings of previews. The show continues at the Johnston Road stage until April 19.

The behind-the-scenes look at the birth of one of Hollywood’s most iconic films is rooted in real-life events, amplified by Hutchinson’s take on what might have happened in Selznick’s office that hectic week.

Nobody really knows what happened inside, Partridge said.

“Selznick, he’s concerned. You know, when he did Gone With the Wind it was a big gamble for him personally, and for his studio, but he was determined to make it happen. It was a big risk, a project he really believed in and not too many other studios were willing to take on, because it was such a big book, more than a thousand pages, but a very important book that sold very well in those days – the quote used in the play is a million and a half copies in 12 months, which is a lot of books.”

In the play, Selznick becomes more frantic as time marches on and the stakes become higher.

“It’s not an easy task to get three people to agree on how it should be done,” Partridge said. “It shows that struggle among the three of them, to make everyone happy, but specifically Selznick, because it’s his livelihood, his career on the line. There are some bigger-than-life moments in there, some comedy, some more dramatic turns, but it’s all very big, bigger-than-life stuff.”

Partridge has been a member of White Rock Players’ Club since the early 1980s or late 1970s – he’s not exactly sure when he signed up for the first time.

“I was doing plays there, acting, for a couple years before I became a member,” said Partridge, currently serving as director at large on the WRPC board.

He last played a role in the company’s production of Lend Me a Tenor in June 2012.

“I usually like to do one play a year,” Partridge said, “but I took last year off to do a bit of a road trip in my old car with a brother and a friend, so that took some time away from acting.”

Others involved in the production of Moonlight and Magnolias include Laura McKenzie as costume designer, Tim Driscoll as set designer, Naomi Mitchell and Rosemary Schuster on props, and Gordon Mantle as stage manager; Mantle is co-producer of the play with Vanessa Klein.

Tickets for the show range from $16 to $18 via 604-536-7535 and whiterockplayers.ca.

tzillich@thenownewspaper.com

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