For The Crier
By Rob & Gayle Suggs
The Fifties saw a full flowering of the American Theater. Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, William Inge, and a host of other masters brought us great stage stories that never seem to grow old. Inge’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Picnic” (1953) is a brilliant example.
In the wake of a shattering world war, these writers explored the meaning of old social and moral values in a new world. So many of Inge’s characters (and the same could be said for Williams and Miller) dared to examine the intersection of human desire and social constraint.
“Picnic” is that kind of pot-boiler, but in the best sense of the term. Actors are challenged to embody hunger and confusion, and Stage Door’s cast does that well.
Inge wrote from his own life and observations. Like Thomas Wolfe, he grew up in a small-town boarding house and understood how spinster schoolteachers lived lives of quiet desperation. That’s one course at this picnic. Another is the fate of a young generation headed not for a war in Europe but–where exactly?
Hal Carter is the football hero with no more gridirons to conquer. Now a drifter, he’s come to town looking for one more favor from his only college pal. Inevitably he’ll run into Madge Owens, that pal’s girlfriend who has a few life questions of her own—thus the classic triangle. Like Hal, she’s all grown up with nowhere to go.
Social class plays a part, too. Flo, the mother of Madge and Millie, wants her oldest daughter to end up with Alan Seymour, who comes from the right kind of family.
With these questions and conflicts, it’s just the right time for a picnic.
Blake Burgess (Hal) and Shannon McCarren (Madge) are the two young people on the verge of starting adulthood. They have great chemistry together and both give compelling, sympathetic performances of these characters who are basically good but flawed people.
JD Myers portrays Madge’s boyfriend, Alan, with wonderful sensitivity. Madge’s younger sister, Millie, is brought to life by Shelby Folks, providing her character with energy, fire, rage, tenderness, and insight, sometimes within a span of less than a minute. Folks navigates this range of emotions with great ease, making her character perfectly believable.
Vickie Ellis Gray (Flo Owens) and Kara Cantrell (Helen Potts) portray the two middle-aged women who are the grounding influences for the younger generation. Life has not been kind to these two neighbors as they strive to keep their households running. But, their personal struggles are understated in the play, and Gray and Cantrell help us see what’s simmering just beneath the lid.
And in the middle of it all is the world of the spinster school teachers. Miss Sydney (Rachel Frawley) is a boarder with the Owens family, proper, professional, good-natured, and desperate to escape the sameness of her existence. Howard Bevans (Larry Davis) is her amiable boyfriend, reluctant to marry since he is “set in his ways.” There is a heart-wrenching scene between these two in the second act. Frawley and Davis deliver an exceptional performance masterfully navigating the emotions.
Rounding out the cast (and providing a little comic relief) are school teachers Miss Kronkite (Liane LeMaster) and Miss Schoenwalder (Suzanne Roush) along with newspaper delivery boy Bomber (Jonathan Wierenga). LeMaster, Roush and Wierenga all play their roles to perfection.
“Picnic” is directed by Tess Malis Kincaid with additional technical assistance provided by Ryan Oliveti (Assistant Director), Rachael Hunter (Technical Director), Chuck Welcome (Set Designer/Scenic Artist), Mark Kincaid (Fight Choreographer), J.D. Williams (Lighting Designer), Jim Alford (Costume Designer), Kathy Ellsworth (Properties Designer), Rial Ellsworth (Sound Designer), George Deavours (Wig Designer), and Bill Byrne (Stage Manager).
Performances continue through Feb. 18 at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. on Sundays. There is one additional performance at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 15. Tickets are $33 for adults, $30 for senior adults, $22 for students.
Get your tickets early as some performances are already sold out! Tickets are available by contacting the Box Office at (770) 396-1726. Stage Door Players is located in the North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center at 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody and on the web at www.stagedoorplayers. net.