KPBS AIRDATE: July 29, 2005
It’s all about constriction, liberation and self-expression. In “Confessions of a Mormon Boy,” a Salt Lake City son, constrained by heritage and church, struggles to come out of the closet. A painful personal journey leads to honesty, identity and redemption. In “Moonlight and Magnolias,” three men are locked in an office. The result of their tortuous incarceration is… “Gone With the Wind.”
It’s 1939. Mega-mogul David O. Selznick is frantic. He’s three weeks into filming an epic romance based on a beloved novel, and he still doesn’t have a workable script, having canned a heap of writers, including F. Scott Fitzgerald. So he summons legendary script-doctor Ben Hecht, and yanks director Victor Fleming off “The Wizard of Oz.” He bolts the door to his executive suite, a beautiful Art Deco design at the Globe, stocking it with “brain food” – peanuts and bananas. No one leaves till he has his screenplay. Problem is, Hecht hasn’t read the 1000-page Margaret Mitchell potboiler, so Selznick and Fleming have to take on all the characters and re-enact the seminal scenes. Hilariously.
Based on a brief reference in Hecht’s memoir, playwright/screenwriter Ron Hutchinson has fashioned a highly entertaining conjectural comedy. It’s a farcical setup, with titillating allusions to the most popular movie of all time. Tony Award-winning director John Rando keeps the tension high and the action antic, sometimes devolving to downright silly. Under duress, each of these iconic creators has a major meltdown; there’s even a food-fight. Tempering the mania is Hecht’s sometimes jarring disquisitions on the stereotypes of the novel and the plight of the Jews in Hollywood and in Europe, where the Holocaust is looming. The performances are wonderful: Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer Simpson, frenzied and frenetic as Selznick; funny-man Tom McGowan as the blustering Fleming, with David Manis’ Hecht the humorous-cynical conscience of the piece. If you’re a stickler for historical accuracy, stay home. For everyone else, this is a delightful, delicious summer-movie-antidote that’s all about the movies.
How ‘bout this for ironic and oxymoronic? Gay Mormon. Steven Fales did everything to escape his destiny: he cried, he prayed, he submitted to multiple ‘reparative’ therapies. He married, had children. But he’s never been ‘cured’ of his SSA, Same Sex Attraction. He finally cracks at age 30, gets divorced and excommunicated, then flees to New York and becomes a highly paid male prostitute. When at last he declares an end to his “gay adolescence,” he regains his soul, sanity, self-respect and “Donny Osmond smile.” “Confessions of a Mormon Boy” isn’t groundbreaking or unique, but Fales is so charming, you can’t resist him or his story. He’s perfect for this Pride weekend. See him at Diversionary before he heads Off Broadway and is Gone With the Wind.
©2005 Patté Productions Inc.