The Phoenix’s Roger Bishop Theatre hosted Picnic Feb. 13–22, the third play of the Phoenix’s season, which was written in 1953 by William Inge.
Picnic revolves around Flo and her daughters Millie and Madge and the events leading up to and following a neighbourhood picnic. The first act of the play presents as an introduction to the characters of the play and sets up the second and final act. The first act feels like slipping into a lukewarm bath, the story flows along, but there is little conflict beyond the stereotypical bickering of siblings in Millie and Madge.
It’s not until the second act that the play starts to heat up with the tension that Hal, the new character to town, brings. Actor Jensen Kerr emotes equal parts goofy screw-up and reckless James Dean in his portrayal of Hal. Hal is the object of desire for many of the ladies in the play, and it is a ‘will they, won’t they’ between him and Madge that creates much of the driving force behind the second act.
The set of Flo’s house with front porch was impressive and detailed; however, like the overall emotion of the play, it was hollow. The societal norms of the time in which the play was written and based may make it harder for audiences to place themselves in the characters’ shoes; however, the actors should have been able to draw an emotional investment from the audience. Instead, I was left trying to relate to Madge’s struggles as well as the other characters, rather than feeling like I was drawn into their lives emotionally.
Although the play left me feeling more like a voyeur than an invested viewer, the cast is a good one and many have shown themselves capable in previous Phoenix productions. The material of this play may perhaps be a little too intricate, as the right notes were not hit to make it feel fully realized.