Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'Picnic' Takes Us Back to Long-Ago, Small-Town America [Corrected 06/23/17]

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'Picnic' Takes Us Back to Long-Ago, Small-Town America [Corrected 06/23/17]

Article excerpt

Correction published on Friday, June 23, 2017 * The remaining performances of ACT INC's "Picnic" at Lindenwood University's J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts are at 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday. Incorrect times were listed in a review on Tuesday.

"Picnic," which won the 1953 Pulitzer Prize in drama, feels like a letter from the past. Set in a small Kansas town, it depicts a long-gone America where women, variously repressed and/or unsatisfied, accept their lot unquestioningly. But when a good-looking young drifter rolls into town, all he has to do is peel off his sweaty shirt to ignite hormonal firestorms all around.

"Picnic" might be the last gasp of the "revolt from the village" that characterized a lot of American literature in the early 20th century and into the 1920s. At that time, many writers disdained provincial values and places in favor of more cosmopolitan attitudes and addresses. The early 1950s, when the play is set, seems a little late in the game. (Playwright William Inge, who was born in 1913, drew on his own Kansas youth for the play.)

There's no way that "Picnic" is going to seem relevant to today's audience, but relevance isn't everything. With its current production of the play, ACT INC strives to give us a little gem, a cultural fossil in amber.

Sometimes that happens, sometimes not.

Director Emily Jones takes the cast smoothly through the action, which takes place at the end of summer in a backyard shared by two houses. Kindly Helen Potts (Eleanor Mullin) lives in one house with her aged mother. Anxious Flo Owens (Liz Hopefl) lives in the other with her daughters, Madge (Bridgette Bassa) and Millie (CeCe Day), plus a boarder, schoolteacher Rosemary Sydney (Judy Yordon).

Flo has pinned her hopes on Madge, considered the prettiest girl in town. A well-brought-up boy from a well-to-do family, Alan Seymour (Kellen Green), has been Madge's boyfriend for a while. Flo thinks he's wonderful.

But once Hal Carter (Spencer Sickmann) shows up, these quiet neighbors lose their balance. …

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