Review Roundup: PICNIC Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!


Roundabout Theatre Company's new Broadway production of Picnic, in association with Darren Bagert and Martin Massman, opens officially today, Sunday, January 13, 2013, at the American Airlines Theatre on Broadway (227 West 42nd Street).

Picnic stars Reed Birney, Maggie Grace, Elizabeth Marvel, Sebastian Stan, Mare Winningham and Ellen Burstyn, with Madeleine Martin, Ben Rappaport, Cassie Beck, Maddie Corman, Lizbeth MacKay and Chris Perfetti.

The creative team includes Andrew Lieberman (Sets), David Zinn (Costumes), Jane Cox (Lights), Jill BC Du Boff (Sound) and Chase Brock (Choreography).

It's a balmy Labor Day in the American Heartland, and a group of women are preparing for a Picnic... but when a handsome young drifter named Hal (Stan) arrives, his combination of uncouth manners and titillating charm sends the women reeling, especially the beautiful Madge (Grace).

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: More than any version of "Picnic" I've seen this one, which has been designed with period exactitude by Andrew Lieberman (set) and David Zinn (costumes), highlights the role of prettiness as both a burden and an aspiration...Mr. Stan...mostly registers as more of an objet d'art than a sex object. Ms. Grace...embodies Madge's small-town self-consciousness with an appealing ease...But except for in one dance sequence (nicely staged by Chase Brock), when Madge and Hal discover a shared rhythm, there's not much chemistry flowing between these two. Even clawing at each other's clothes, they somehow seem to be lost in their own, isolating thoughts. The same might be said of the cast as a whole. Which means that, lacking an electric current to invisibly connect its characters, this "Picnic" remains little more than a billboard for prettiness.

Jennifer Farrar, Associated Press: Inge might be amazed that his bittersweet examination of life's disappointments is here presented as a broader comedy, but director Sam Gold and the seasoned cast members mostly make it work...Gold has overlaid humorous interpretations onto Inge's stilted and dated dialogue, often to good effect, while still keeping the period feel. If this technique doesn't help amp up the tension that should be building throughout the play, it makes for good entertainment on the handsomely detailed set of scuffed-up houses with a claustrophobic rusty-looking wall towering above.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: While the heat between the central couple in director Sam Gold's Broadway revival could have been turned up a notch, the veil of melancholy hanging over the play's characters generates a quiet poignancy...Despite producing four popular and critical successes in the 1950s, Inge's work has proven less durable than that of some of his contemporaries. His plays lack the thematic expansiveness of Arthur Miller, or the sad poetry of Tennessee Williams. But as a snapshot of a time and place that shows the solitude of small-town life for so many people, women especially, Picnic yields gentle rewards. And if Gold's staging muffles some of them, it nonetheless finds resonance in the play's bruised cynicism about love.

Scott Brown, Vulture: That's a lot of traffic, stylistically, and performances that don't match seem not to collide so much as move through each other, like ghosts. That's not to say the energies never align...As it stands, this Picnic is an ad hoc smorgasbord, where not all dishes are guaranteed to palate in perfect harmony. Not everything goes down smoothly, and one wonders if a bit more salt might've tied the whole thing together.

Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg: The voltage is more palpable in Joshua Logan's 1955 film starring a smoldering Kim Novak and a feral William Holden than it is in this earnestly detailed but sexless revival. Sebastian and Grace look the parts, but an essential element of palpable desire is missing...Still, if there's any justice in the world, a special Tony Award for most intense duet would go to Reed Birney and Elizabeth Marvel, who play Howard and Rosemary, the owner of a dry-goods store and a school teacher.

Steve Parks, Newsday: It's been 60 years since "Picnic" premiered on Broadway. But as Roundabout Theatre's anniversary revival proves, art, like life, isn't fair. Some of us age better than others. Though William Inge won a Pulitzer Prize for "Picnic," it's never been successfully revived. Director Sam Gold and a plausible cast gamely attempt to recapture the traumas of small-town life that anchored Inge's four acclaimed plays...As if the art of conversation was as obsolete as the theater-lobby pay phones, Act I's idle chatter reveals an actor-to-actor inability to connect. Only when yelling commences does the cast wake up and smell the roles. And do they ever. Acts II and III give us a hint of why Inge, who committed suicide in 1973, was considered a literary lion.


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