Naveen Kumar | New York | News | Review | Sebastian Stan | Theatre

'Picnic' Starring Sebastian Stan Opens On Broadway: REVIEW



With the exception of a winning performance by stage champ Elizabeth Marvel, the most invigorating aspect of Roundabout Theatre Company's staid revival of William Inge's Picnic are film hunk Sebastian Stan's high-definition abs. They feature so prominently in director Sam Gold's production, which opened Sunday on Broadway, that Ben Brantley of the New York Times suggested they deserve star billing on the marquee.

2_picnicStan plays Hal Carter, a handsome and charismatic roustabout whose arrival in a small Kansas town shakes up the constrained lives of variously lonely and restless female residents. The women of Picnic—young or old, smart or beautiful—face limited options, and not many lead far from the quaint backyard that makes up the stage.

Inge's women on the verge include Ellen Burstyn as Helen Potts, a neighbor who feeds Hal in exchange for a bit of yard work (hence his various states of undress), Marvel as Rosemary Sydney, a wry spinster school teacher whose eyes nearly bug out at the sight of him, and town beauty Madge Owens (Maggie Grace), daughter to Flo (Mare Winningham) and older sister to the more gawky Millie (Madeleine Martin).

Hoping for a new start, Hal rolls into town seeking help from his former fraternity brother, and Madge's buttoned-up steady, Alan Seymour (Ben Rappaport). Instead, Hal and Madge are naturally drawn to each other, completing the play's central love triangle.

3_picnicOriginally staged on Broadway in 1953, in a production that included Paul Newman in his Broadway debut, Picnic can seem dated to contemporary audiences, particularly in it's 'aw-shucks' colloquial dialogue. Gold's production does little to brush off the dust or breathe new life into the story. Partial reproductions of two suburban houses dominate the stage leaving limited room to maneuver a cast of twelve, while lighting design by Jane Cox borders on bizarre.

Though the conventions of post-war gender roles that fuel the play's action are outdated, restless desire simmering underneath genteel exteriors is the stuff of Chekhov. As randy, aging schoolmarm Rosemary Sydney, it's Marvel who best embodies the raw desperation for companionship and a better life that most characters share. She performs sharp emotional turns that betray innate animal instincts never far from the surface.

To be fair, Stan's abs-that-launched-a-thousand-ships are in fact integral to the play's story, though the production's emotional intensity doesn't quite live up to the promise of their carnal appeal.

Picnic continues performances on Broadway through February 24th at the American Airlines Theatre.

Recent theatre features...
'The Other Place' Starring Laurie Metcalf Opens On Broadway: REVIEW
Rob Ashford Takes on 'Cat On A Hot Tin Roof' on Broadway: INTERVIEW
Pulitzer Prize Winner 'Water By The Spoonful' Opens Off-Broadway: REVIEW
Amy Herzog's 'The Great God Pan' Opens Off-Broadway: REVIEW
What Rhymes with America Opens Off-Broadway: REVIEW

Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar. (photos: joan marcus)

Feed This post's comment feed


  1. "silly blog" ?

    Posted by: RobWest | Jan 17, 2013 11:17:08 AM

  2. NOBODY had abs like that in the 1950s.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jan 17, 2013 11:23:43 AM

  3. Hey YUPP, ... NOPE.

    Posted by: Dee Vee | Jan 17, 2013 11:24:07 AM

  4. Thanks for a daily dash of racism, Yupp. Really raising the bar.

    Posted by: Mikey | Jan 17, 2013 11:24:24 AM

  5. @Yupp, shut up.
    Nice looking actor.

    Posted by: Matt26 | Jan 17, 2013 11:35:04 AM

  6. My former parents-in-law were extras in the movie. Gotta love that Rosalind Russell.

    Posted by: Carl | Jan 17, 2013 11:42:54 AM

  7. Picnic? I'd eat cold fried chicken offa that any day.

    Posted by: Tessie Tura | Jan 17, 2013 11:46:27 AM

  8. @YUPP If you are not simply a troll and actually believe what you posted, you'd better figure out where your narrow-minded bigoted words are coming from -- I'm sure it isn't a pretty place.

    @David Ehrenstein: I totally agree. It's off-putting to see a man with a modern-day buff body, with all traces of hair removed, playing a man from another era when what was regarded as a sexy, fit body looked quite different. If the production is using period costumes, it should also make some effort to have the actors look like they belong in the right place and time even with their clothes off.

    Posted by: MichaelJ | Jan 17, 2013 11:59:54 AM

  9. @Carl,

    I agree. As beautiful as Kim Novak was to look at-- Rosalind Russell stole the movie. Also, young Susan Stausberg was great too.

    I'm sorry some of you believe the play is dated. I've read the play and seen the movie a thousand times. I don't think the movie's dated, but then again, I'm old.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Jan 17, 2013 12:02:02 PM

  10. I have always been a fan of Sebastian Stan. He's played the part of a gay man several times on television. But......when did he become such a HUNK???? While I have always enjoyed his acting, I can now appreciate other things about him.....LOL

    Posted by: Graham | Jan 17, 2013 12:06:24 PM

  11. I always thought the movie was just kinda meh. Nothing really happens in it.

    Posted by: AJ | Jan 17, 2013 12:21:14 PM

  12. Pic of the day. Snacky.

    Posted by: Pervy McPerv | Jan 17, 2013 12:23:13 PM

  13. Again I ask, is America so out of shape and fat that a guy with a hard flat defined midsection makes news? Answer: Yes.

    Posted by: Sargon Bighorn | Jan 17, 2013 1:00:20 PM

  14. Inge is a very important writer and his his story is quite sobering. "Picnic," "Bus Stop," "Come Back Little Sheba" and "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs" brought him enormous success. Then it was discovered he had "strange twilight urges" and he became a Broadway pariah. The movies saved him. "Splendor in the Grass" is his masterpiece, IMO. And the ending of that film is as overwhelming as the ending to the film version of "Picnic" but for rather different reasons.

    At the last he was working off-broadway where via a play of his called "The Last Pad" he discovered

    (wait for it)

    Nick Nolte.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jan 17, 2013 1:02:03 PM

  15. Right there? That's the kinda guy you swallow.

    Posted by: Jase | Jan 17, 2013 1:03:55 PM

  16. Loving these reviews. Thanks! But,",,, smart OR beautiful..."?

    Posted by: throwslikeagirl | Jan 17, 2013 2:04:00 PM

  17. @Throwslikeagirl: the play really sets it up as "smart or beautiful," that's not Naveen. Millie (the "smart" one) is always complaining about Madge, her sister, being "the pretty one." Unfortunately, this binary hasn't completely gone away.

    I also agree with the remarks on Hal's physique. I directed a college production a few years ago, and I had to pull my actor aside and say, "Stop with the manscaping." He was sad, since his trainer had told him to do it, but he stopped until after the show closed. And he just booked his first national commercial.

    I think the play still connects with a lot of contemporary issues--women being told they're past their prime, the guy the girl doesn't want because he's "too nice," the college football star whose self-worth is so inflated he doesn't know what to do and turns to crime--gee, that doesn't happen anymore, does it?

    Posted by: Ronny | Jan 17, 2013 2:30:20 PM

  18. A young Nick Nolte as Hal would have been perfect- Hal should be more than pretty but have a smoldering sexuality that makes all the women in the play go mad. Mr Stan has a pretty plastic look and too gym toned for someone that is suppose to have been living on the road.

    Posted by: jaragon | Jan 17, 2013 5:32:12 PM

  19. Stan's not going to be worried about matching a 'softer' physique to the play, as he's buffed up for a VASTLY (like a hundred to a thousand times) better paying role in Marvel's The Winter Soldier.

    Posted by: Tarc | Jan 19, 2013 2:08:42 PM

Post a comment


« «Gay Man Discharged Under DADT Chosen As Inauguration 'Citizen Co-Chair'« «