Screenwriter Ben Hecht calls Hollywood’s movie studios “the stockyards for the human soul,” as he tries to rework Sydney Howard’s original 1938 screenplay for “Gone With the Wind.” After three weeks of filming, producer David O. Selznick has fired original director George Cukor, taken Victor Fleming away from directing “The Wizard of Oz,” and hired Hecht to salvage what was, at the time, a fantastically expensive undertaking.
From the lore that Selznick (Jeff Marlow) locked Hecht (Leonard Kelly-Young) and Fleming (Brendan Ford) in a room for five days to complete the task comes this exuberantly lunatic comedy written by Ron Hutchinson. For two rapid-fire acts, the trio trades insults, acts out scenes from the movie, and provides a general insider’s guide to Hollywood filmmaking and juicy tidbits about “GWTW.” For good measure, Hutchinson throws in commentary about the coming war, anti-Semitism, and race relations. This addition to the comedy becomes the most problematic element in the play. Director Andrew Barnicle handles it deftly, but his emphasis is clearly on slapstick.
Marlow plays a Max Bialystock–type producer, maniacally cheerleading the work as he rants about his father-in-law, Louis B. Mayer, and how important this picture is to his future success. Kelly-Young has some of the best lines, and he delivers them right on the mark with deadpan sarcasm. Ford also hams it up as the bedeviled director whose desire not to return to being an auto mechanic propels him into doing anything for Selznick, including playing “GWTW” characters Melanie and Prissy to great effect. Also adding a wacky touch is Emily Eiden as Selznick’s secretary, who makes the most of every “Yes, Mr. Selznick” she utters.
Bruce Goodrich’s elegant art-deco set undergoes chaos over the five-day confinement and, enhanced by Paulie Jenkins’ lighting design, adds its own comic touch to the production. It is crowd-pleasing and a lighthearted screwball comedy.
Presented by La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts and McCoy Rigby Entertainment in association with and at the Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. Oct. 6–Nov. 1. Tue.–Fri. 8 p.m., Sat., 2 and 8 p.m., Sun., 2 and 7 p.m. (949) 497-2787. www.lagunaplayhouse.com.