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a Comedy/Drama
by William Inge

COMPANY : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
ID# 5223

SHOWING : January 26, 2018 - February 18, 2018



Winner of the 1953 Pulitzer Prize, and made into a film starring Kim Novak and William Holden, the play takes place on a Kansas Labor Day weekend in the joint backyards of two middle-aged widows, Flo Owens, who lives there with her two maturing daughters, and Helen Potts, who lives with her elderly and invalid mother. Along comes a mysterious young man whose animal vitality seriously upsets the entire group. Choices, temptations, and sacrifices lead to the prevailing message of "Picnic" that youth is a precious gift that must be savored instead of squandered.

Director Tess Malis Kincaid
Hal Carter Blake Burgess
Howard Bevans Larry Davis
Millie Owens Shelby Folks
Rosemary Sydney Rachel Frawley
Flo Owens Vicki Ellis Gray
Irma Kronkite Liane Lemaster
Madge Owens Shannon McCarren
Alan Seymour J D Myers
Christine Schoenwalder Suzanne Roush
Bomber Jonathan Wierenga
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Hot September
by playgoer
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
William Inge’s "Picnic" takes place in the backyards of two neighboring houses. It’s a realistic play, but at Stage Door Players, Chuck Welcome’s set shows only the framework and porches of the two houses. The Owens house, stage right, has some Victorian gingerbread; the Potts house at stage left is plainer. Suggestions of the rooflines appear at the back, but all entrances from the house occur through black curtains. The Owens home has a second-floor window suspended from the auditorium’s ceiling, so the iconic scene of Madge being seen through it has to be imagined. A picket fence joins the two houses, with a cyclorama behind it, on which J.D. William’s lighting design shows blue to indicate day, orange to indicate sunset, and displays a moon to indicate night. It all gives the impression of a dreary spot on the Great American Plain, an impression emphasized by the dirty cream paint on the fence and house frames and the sandy tan of most of the floor, but somewhat lessened by the lush patches of artificial flowers outside both houses.

The time period of the play is set primarily by Jim Alford’s costume design, which works well in the context of the play. Kathy Ellsworth’s props underline the time period, although they aren’t given much of a workout. George Deavours wigs look too much like wigs to really succeed in emphasizing the time period. Rial Ellsworth’s sound design, however, is impressive, with motor sounds and offstage music coming from distinct offstage directions.

The true pleasure of the play comes from its performances, as honed by the expert direction of Tess Malis Kincaid. All eleven members of the cast have distinct personalities that mesh just as they should, with lots of little character details that charm. Reactions are all in character, giving a cohesive feel to the production and engendering laughs from the tiniest pause or smallest gesture. It’s not all laughs, though; the drama of the story also comes through. We feel for Madge (Shannon McCarren), the pretty girl who feels she is judged solely on her looks; for Millie (the dynamic Shelby Folks), her younger sister, who feels constrained by her role as the "smart" one; and for all the other characters whose dreams and desires can come true only when tinged with bittersweetness.

Kara Cantrell gives a standout performance as neighbor Helen Potts, a man-crazy middle-aged woman whose current behavior mirrors the urges that caused her to run away and marry a man briefly before her mother rounded her up and annulled the marriage, and now keeps her held hostage as her caretaker. Larry Davis is also excellent as Howard Bevans, a shopkeeper whose mixed intentions toward schoolteacher Rosemary (Rachel Frawley) also keep him hostage. Suzanne Roush, in the small role of a schoolteacher new to town, is a marvel of gesture and expression, with Liane LeMaster also succeeding as her chatterbox friend. Blake Burgess (Hal Carter), Vickie Ellis Gray (mother Flo Owens), and Rachel Frawley (Rosemary) don’t seem to have brought the depth to their characters as much as some other cast members, but they acquit themselves well. JD Myers (Alan Seymour) and Jonathan Wierenga (Bomber) both do fine work as young men for whom fulfilling romance isn’t in the cards.

The play itself is constrained by its unit set, in contrast to the grand scope of the excellent motion picture. Nothing of the town seen onstage but two backyards and two back porches. But Tess Malis Kincaid has filled "Picnic" with the kind of character detail that breathes life into a play and makes the audience feel as if they have entered this town for a couple of highly enjoyable hours. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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