By Allison McCausland
A&E and Online Editor
Act 1 extends the Labor Day weekend into October with William Inge’s comedy classic Picnic, which ran from Sept. 26 to Oct. 7 at the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts Theater.
Contemporary at the time of its opening, Picnic gives a glimpse into the relationships between men and women in the 1950s Midwest over a Labor Day weekend picnic celebration. The story follows drifter Hal Carter, played by junior Darron Watson, as he comes to town to visit his friend Alan Seymour, played by junior Billy Mitchell, and becomes smitten with Alan’s girlfriend Madge Owens, played by sophomore Abby Garza.
Despite their mutual attraction, Madge remains hesitant because of pressure brought on by her mother Flo, played by junior Cathy Ritter, to marry Alan and elevate her social status. However, as the weekend progresses, the tensions between all the characters cause passions and fists to fly.
Although the plot misleads some to believe the performance a more serious drama, especially for those who have seen the 1955 film version, Inge’s play is truly a comedy under the surface with laughs in spades. Director Steven Dennis managed to make the tireless themes and action come alive and feel timeless despite the 1950s setting.
Two performances of note came from the supporting characters of Mille Owens, Madge’s kid sister played by freshman Katie McGlone, and Helen Pott’s, the Owens’ eccentric neighbor played by senior Jillian Vinciguerra. Both had the audience in stiches with their one liners and quirky personalities, which is a testament to Dennis’ direction, McGlone’s budding acting ability and Vinciguerra’s seasoned experience.
Another comedic highlight was the chemistry between the characters of Rosemary Sydney, an old maid schoolteacher played by sophomore Megan Dean, and her boyfriend, local shop proprietor Howard Bevans, played by Joe Donley. The couple provides an interesting foil for the romance between Hal and Madge, who have a lot of more serious caveats to deal with in the form of Madge’s mother and boyfriend.
Even though the witty dialogue is one of the production’s staples, the dated nature of certain vernacular and slang felt unnatural from the actor’s mouths, especially in the more serious scenes. The forced nature of the “honey’s’” and “baby’s” took some of the illusion of 1950s small-town Kansas out of the theater’s audience, but thankfully brought them back with other comedic antics of the supporting characters or scene changes.
In regard to the scene itself and the sets built, resident scenic designers Will Neuert and William Neal outdo themselves with the single, detailed setting between the Owens and Potts shared backyard. Seeing it creates the nostalgia associated with family gatherings or intimate evenings on the backyard wrap around porch of long summers past perfect for the Labor Day weekend occasion of the production.
Sadly, any long-term feelings to extend the summer officially comes to a close on the date of the last performance, Oct. 7. However, Act 1 is ushering in its next production in its smaller Schubert Theater starting Oct. 11-21 with the musical comedy Dames at Sea.
If you missed your chance to laugh with the Main Stages’ Picnic, then get your tickets soon for their next comedy. Tickets can be purchased at the Labuda Theater box office or online at https://www.desales.edu/news-events/act-1-productions. Don’t miss out!