It hasn't been a picnic lately, what with the cold-ass weather and ridiculously high winds. But on Saturday night, Tony and I caught the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of Picnic. For the most part, the play worked for us.
SPOILERS AHEAD: Mare Winningham should be nominated for a Tony. She anchors the play as Flo Owens, who wants to keep her gorgeous older daughter Madge close at hand by marrying her off to handsome-and-rich-but-boring college boy Alan. That plan begins to go awry when their neighbor Helen Potts—the delightful Ellen Burstyn—hires hunky Hal to do some shirtless yardwork for her. Hal, who was Alan's fraternity brother before dropping out of school, gets set up with bookish younger daughter Millie as her date for the annual Labor Day picnic, but it isn't long before the two hotties hook up instead of going to that title-giving event. The second act ends with Hal picking up Madge in his arms and declaring, "We're not goin' on no goddamn picnic." Alan and Flo get their revenge on Hal by siccing the police on him, claiming that he'd stolen Alan's car. Alan hops a train for Tulsa, and Madge follows by bus.
One thing that didn't work for me was the set. I'm still alarmed by the super-tall fence that abuts both the front and back of the Owens house while also forming a side wall that Madge's bedroom window pokes out of. It makes no sense architecturally, even though, as Tony said, it represents how trapped several of the characters in the play feel. It's the type of fence you see used as a sound block next to highways or railroad tracks, and maybe that's what it's literally intended to be; the railroad that gets people out of the small Kansas town where the play takes place is integral to the story. Nonetheless, the fence doesn't seem to serve that purpose because Hal gets to his Tulsa-bound train from the stage side of it.
OK, enough of that. I'm going to get off that goddamn fence and write about the side story involving self-described "old-maid school teacher," Rosemary Sydney, who boards with the Owenses. I found her arc more compelling than that of the young lovers. Elizabeth Marvel was great as Rosemary, and so was Reed Birney as her lukewarm suitor Howard Bevans. After getting drunk in the backyard with Howard (and tearing into Hal as a good-for-nothing in a scene whose aftermath shows Hal to be least somewhat self-aware), Rosemary goes off for a drive with Howard and has sex with him. Back in Flo and Helen's backyard early the next morning, she insists that he marry her. He says a woman should at least say please. She does. He leaves after promising to call her after he gets some sleep. Later that morning, he shows up at the house expecting to break up with her, but they're soon running off to get married instead. Rosemary has managed to break out of the sad world she felt trapped in, but it's doubtful she and Howard's marriage will be a happy one. Just as it's unlikely Hal and Madge's life together in Tulsa—and whatever towns they drift to next—will be happy.
I was thinking Paul Newman starred as Hal in the movie based on the play, but that was actually, to quote New York magazine's Scott Brown, "a comically age-inappropriate William Holden," who turned 37 the year the film was released. Newman was in the cast of the original Broadway production, first as Alan and then as Hal.
Before the play, Tony and I had our Valentine's dinner out at Commerce; Tony had made delicious short ribs in the slow cooker and grilled asparagus on Valentine's Day itself.
To drink, we had the quite good 2008 Blason D'Issan from the Bordeaux commune of Margaux. Which, as regular readers of Hawleyblog know, is Tony's favorite commune.
At Commerce, the highlight of my meal was the entree: Cavatelli With Italian Sausage and Cauliflower.
I could have eaten twice the amount on the plate.
Earlier that day, Tony took a pic of me sporting my new tank top with an homage to Statler and Waldorf on it.