BWW Reviews: PICNIC Intriguing Look at the Power of Social Expectations
PICNIC by William Inge is a 1963 play that explores the themes of loneliness, desperation, beauty and youth. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the New York Drama Critic's Circle Award for Best Play. In this play, Inge focuses on what happens when characters are pitted against cultural and social expectations.
PICNIC tells the story of a handsome young drifter named Hal whose presence rattles a small Kansas town over the course of Labor Day Weekend. His virility and sexual magnetism attracts the attention of every woman in town. The attention spans the gamut from distrust to lust. The women in Inge's drama are all looking for that "perfect relationship". Those who are young do not appreciate it, and the older characters long to have their youth back. Indeed, the overall message seems to be the old saying that youth is wasted on the young.
It is Labor Day, and everyone is preparing for a neighborhood picnic. When Mrs. Potts (Mary Margaret Mainer) welcomes newcomer Hal (Zach Bond) into her home, it is obvious that her neighbor, boarding house operator Flo Owens (Christina Little-Manley), immediately distrusts him. That distrust intensifies when Hal becomes infatuated with Madge (Erin Priddy), Flo's eldest daughter and the girlfriend of Hal's fraternity brother, Alan (Alex Poole). Since Millie (Alyssa Castro), Flo's youngest daughter, does not have a date, neighbor Mrs. Potts suggests that Hal accompany her, much to the displeasure of Flo. Hal agrees, but is clearly much more interested in Madge. There is undeniable attraction between the two, as much as Madge may try to fight it. While getting ready for the picnic, the family and friends dance in Flo's backyard to music playing nearby. As Hal begins to grow on each of the women, they begin to vie for his attention. At this point, several unfortunate things happen simultaneously: Millie gets sick from drinking too much whiskey while no one is paying attention. Hal accidentally offends Rosemary (Georgia Medler), the schoolteacher, who then screams at him, and Flo joins in criticizing him. Hal sits by himself while everyone leaves for the picnic. Rosemary and her boyfriend Howard (Dave Lovelace) decide to skip the picnic and go for a drive. Madge stays behind to change her dress. When she comes back outside and tries to console Hal, they end up running off together and spending the night in a car.
The current production of PICNIC by Agape Actor's Coop, has a lot to like. Unfortunately, the performances given are uneven. Jeff Davis and Lori Mann have staged the piece well and have achieved some very good performances in some of the actors. Davis' sound and lighting design for this production are also quite good; as is Olin Meadow's set design.
Christina Little-Manley does an excellent job with Flo, the mother of the two young girls, who is determined to steer them into a better life than hers. We feel her pain and desperation when her carefully laid plans fall apart. Alyssa Castro is terrific as younger daughter Millie, the tom-boy with a crush on the boy her mother has chosen for her sister. Georgia Medler turns in a fine performance as the desperate spinster schoolteacher Rosemary. As Howard, Rosemary's romantic interest, Dave Lovelace gives a solid and believable turn as a man trapped by circumstance.
As Mrs. Potts, Mary Margaret Mainer has chosen to play the character as more motherly than former wild child, which sadly undercuts the character's depth. The character, as written by Inge, longs for the days of her wild youth, going against conventions and challenging authority. With this aspect removed, we lose sight of where the wisdom in her older years comes from. This motherly approach completely negates the power of her stating that having Hal in her house has "reminded her she was a woman".
Hal, as written by Inge, is young, crazy, and impulsive. He's seen harsh times. He's been to reform school, been part of a fraternity, been chased by police and claims other things that may or may not be true. There should be a sense of danger in the portrayal of Hal. Zach Bond has the charm of the character down, but we never see the danger under the surface. This is most likely due to the fact that Mr. Bond is too young for the role.
Madge may seem naïve, but she definitely has some knowledge about the world. Erin Priddy has the beautiful and naïve aspects of Madge down, but we fail to get a sense of these hidden secrets or the longing and inner conflict that arises in her once she has experienced Hal.
While the production is solid and entertaining, there isn't that sense of desperation and longing that should permeate the piece. It feels, in areas, two dimensional.
Still, all in all, this is not a bad production of a classic American drama. In many ways, it is quite good... I just wanted more depth from some of the characters that just wasn't there.
PICNIC by William Inge
Running time: Approximately Two Hours with one intermission
PICNIC, produced by Agape Actors Co-op, at East View High School Black Box Theatre (4490 East University Avenue, Georgetown, TX 78626) Aug. 6 - 16, 2015. $17 Adults/$12 Students & Seniors in advance or $20 Adults/$15 Students & Seniors at the door. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:30 pm. Tickets: www.agapeactors.com