April 25, 2017
Not long ago, in 2013 to be exact, William Inge’s Pulitzer Prize winning 1953 Drama “Picnic” enjoyed a revival on Broadway. Now, in a multi-purpose theater located in the basement of the Judson Gym, “Picnic” returns for a spare, but potent production by the Transport Group, directed by Jack Cummings III.
Limited to about 85 audience members per show, the minimal set is dressed with deck chairs stretching across the back of the stage leading away from a few doors suggesting a string of small town back yards. Immediately the eye-catching, studley frame of a young man, Hal (David T. Patterson), appears glistening in sweat while finishing up some chores. Proudly flexing his bulging arms, Hal spies the blond haired, unassuming beauty Madge (Ginna Le Vine), who lives next door. Having landed in a courtyard of single females, Hal’s sexual vigor is visibly disruptive.
This hardly bothers Mrs. Potts (Heather MacRae), the kindly older lady who habitually hires stray men to help with chores around the house. She thoroughly enjoys the strapping young man’s company, paying Hal a small stipend and gladly feeding his manly appetite. Not so pleased is Madge’s mother Flo (Michele Pawk) because she wants Madge to marry the stable, wealthy milquetoast young man Alan (Rowan Vickers) and Hal spells “Trouble” with capital “T.”
By this point, the mold is set, but there a few surprises. To start, dreamy Madge’s boyfriend was Hal’s pal in college. What a coincidence! Having never finished college, and tired of bumming around the country, Hal asks Alan to help him get a job and put down roots. At first, Alan wants to help his friend, later; Hal becomes a threat that must be removed.
Brimming with frustrated passion and thwarted dreams, the ladies of the backyards form a Greek chorus of longing. There’s Flo whose husband left her, the frustrated schoolteacher Rosemary (Emily Skinner) who desperately longs for a husband, Madge’s brainy sister Millie (Hannah Elless) who longs for male attention. Madge who knows that the “right” guy means muzzling her dreams and settling for an average life, so she’s poised to bolt.
Hal who stirs hope and fear in everyone upends all these scenarios.
Director Hal Cummings gets some well-tuned performances out of the cast in this convincing production.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis