'Picnic' on Broadway: What did the critics think?

This post has been updated.

"Picnic," the 1953 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by William Inge, is getting a rare revival on Broadway from the Roundabout Theatre with a cast of young, good-looking actors paired alongside more seasoned veterans.

Maggie Grace, who appeared in NBC's "Lost" and the "Twilight" movies, stars alongside Sebastian Stan, who was in the shortlived USA series "Political Animals." They are joined by Ellen Burstyn (who was also in "Political Animals"), Mare Winningham and Elizabeth Marvel.

Sam Gold, who recently directed Theresa Rebeck's "Seminar" on Broadway and in L.A. at the Ahmanson Theatre, has staged the revival production.

The play, an ensemble drama set in a rural Kansas town, first premiered on Broadway in 1953 with a cast that included Kim Stanley, Eileen Heckart and a then-unknown Paul Newman. The 1955 film version of "Picnic" starred William Holden and Kim Novak. 

"Picnic" received a major revival in L.A. at the Ahmanson in 1986. That cast included Rue McClanahan, Conchata Ferrell and a very young Jennifer Jason Leigh. 

What did critics think of the new revival of "Picnic"?

The New York Times' Ben Brantley complimented Stan's chiseled torso as well as Winningham's performance. But "there’s not much chemistry flowing" between the two romantic leads. Nor is there for the cast as a whole, "which means that, lacking an electric current to invisibly connect its characters, this 'Picnic' remains little more than a billboard for prettiness."

David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the play "yields gentle rewards" even if the new staging "muffles some of them." The combined good looks of Stan and Grace outweigh their performances. The heat between the actors revival "could have been turned up a notch" but overall melancholy "hanging over the play’s characters generates a quiet poignancy."

The Associated Press' Jennifer Farrar described the production as "polished, classy." The director adds a comedic interpretation to "Inge's stilted and dated dialogue, often to good effect, while still keeping the period feel."  

Steve Parks of Newsday wrote that the director and "plausible cast gamely attempt to recapture the traumas of small-town life." The first act "reveals an actor-to-actor inability to connect. Only when yelling commences does the cast wake up and smell the roles."

[For the record: An earlier version of this post had the wrong first name for the director Sam Gold.]


Sam Gold works to revive 'Picnic'

William Inge: The Cost Of Disregard

Stage review: Revived 'Picnic' offers a mellow spread at Ahmanson Theatre

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