Home Entertainment Dramaworks’ “Picnic” Discovers New Insights in Inge’s Lumbering 1953 Classic

Dramaworks’ “Picnic” Discovers New Insights in Inge’s Lumbering 1953 Classic

Merlin Huff courts Kelly Gibson (Photo by Samantha Mighdoll)

By John Thomason, FloridaTheaterOnStage.com, for  SouthFloridaReporter.com, Oct. 13, 2015 – For better or worse, they don’t make ‘em like Picnic anymore. William Inge crafted his 1953 Broadway hit at a time when two-and-a-half-hour dramas were the standard, not the bladder-testing exception they are today. With its novelistic heft, lumbering pace and overpopulated cast, Picnic is a product of its time.

But rather than attempt to reproduce a more propulsive Picnic for impatient 21st century audiences, director William Hayes’ season-opening interpretation at Palm Beach Dramaworks deftly colors around the edges of the main storyline, spelunking the script’s peripheral action for new revelations about Inge’s mid-century, middle-class, Middle-American strivers. It’s the same Picnic, only this time with a more egalitarian sense of melancholy.

The play is set in a backyard connecting a pair of well-worn two-story houses in small-town Kansas, beautifully rendered in another capacious and verdant Michael Amico set, detailed down to the functional water pump and the fallen leaves scattered on the shingled roofs. Lighting designer Donald Edmund Thomas paints this lived-in exterior the color of sun-bathed wheat.