TR Robertson …The final play for the 2016/17 season for the Oceanside Theatre on Coast Highway is the 1953 Pulitzer Prize winning “Picnic”, written by William Inge. The play premiered at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway and ran for 477 performances. A strong cast of eleven brought this story of love, aging, teen angst, beauty, and loneliness to the stage, which will run until May 21st. San Diego native, Ted Leib, the newest artistic director for Oceanside Theatre, directed “Picnic”. He said, “It’s an innovative story with a strong focus on women” and “I especially appreciate the fact that there are teenage roles in this piece for some of San Diego’s emerging young talent.” The porch set designs, where the action of the play will unfold, were done by Kelly Kissinger.Photos by Bob Rossi
“Picnic” takes place in a small Kansas town on a Labor Day weekend and centers on Flo Owens and her two teenage daughters, Madge and Mille. Flo rents a room to Rosemary, an aging unmarried school teacher. Nearby is Helen Potts, a widowed neighbor, who has recently befriended young drifter Hal Carter. Hal will upset the apple cart as his exuberant, out-going personality will begin to change and influence Flo’s daughters as well as many other of Flo’s friends. Madge is dealing with everyone thinking she is “the pretty one” and Sister Millie is beginning to have a mind of her own and is developing jealous feelings toward her sister. Mom, Flo, wants Madge to marry Alan and sees this relationship as a chance to raise her status, “It takes a lot more than love to make people happy”. Tensions will rise among those getting ready for this annual picnic. Madge’s boyfriend, Alan Seymour, adoration of former fraternity brother Hal will take on changes, Rosemary’s commitment to friend Howard Bevan will take on deeper feelings, Flo will begin to see major changes and growth in her daughters and this happy, festive day will turn out to be no picnic. And then there’s Hal. He is a person in and out of trouble. A lost soul, searching to find his place. He is loud, boisterous, good looking (spending much of the play shirtless), and a person ladies love and moms fear. Hal knows he has issues, he just doesn’t know how to deal with them, “I could set the world on fire. I’ve got to learn patience”. Hal will trigger emotions and change in everyone he comes in contact with. Audience members will have to discuss whether it is for the worse or better in those character’s lives.
.Photos by Bob Rossi
Leib has brought together a cast that fits their characters perfectly. Flo, played by veteran actress Tracy Williams who teaches acting and other performance classes at Mira Costa College, presents both a loving, overly concerned mom and a lady you don’t want to have on your wrong side. Daughters Madge and Millie are played by Carolyn Lupin as Madge and Kaitlyn O’Leary as Millie. Carolyn and Kaitlyn are making their Oceanside Theatre debut. Carolyn has performed in local theatre and in Oklahoma productions and Kaitlyn is a sophomore at Torrey Pines High School. As sisters who both at times despise and love one another, you can see sisters everywhere. They both show the conflict that Hal will help bring to the surface, even if he didn’t mean to do this. Lonely school “marm” Rosemary, is played by Sherri Allen, an OTC veteran as well as a veteran of many San Diego theatre stages. As Rosemary, Sherri presents a woman who sees her life going nowhere, living the same experiences over and over as well as in a relationship that doesn’t seem to have the future she envisioned. You can understand her situation and leave the theater wondering if the end result she forces will end happily for her. Instrumental in changing the lives of these people is Hal, played by Adam Daniel. Adam has appeared both in stage and cinema productions and is a graduate of San Diego State University with a B.A. in Theatre Performance. You will both like Hal and his exuberance and dislike Hal and his exuberance. Adam presents the pivotal character of Hal in the manner I think William Inge would have wanted, as a character you are torn between liking and disliking, just as the members of the play see him.
Other members of the Oceanside Theatre cast include Scott Arnold as the love struck Alan, a college man who is more infatuated with the fact he was actually able to get a girlfriend as pretty as Madge and awe struck by the image Hal presents. Others on stage were Paul Maley as Howard, the “can’t make his mind up” boyfriend of Rosemary, Melba Novoa as Christine and Sandy Roberts Agan as Irma, teacher friends of Rosemary. Debbie Nicastro plays Helen the neighbor that helped begin what would unfold on stage by hiring Hal as a handy man. Making periodic entrances on stage was Sittichai Chaiyahat as Bomber, the newspaper boy, making his OTC debut and a senior at Oceanside High School.
William Inge won a Tony Award in 1953 for Best Director and a New York Critics Circle Award for Best Play of the Season. The play was turned into a movie in 1955 with the same director, Joshua Logan, which won 2 Academy Awards and starred William Holden, Kim Novak, Susan Strasberg and Cliff Robertson. Inge also wrote “Come Back Little Sheba”, “Bus Stop” and “Splendor in the Grass”.
Perhaps Howard sums things up best when he says to Rosemary, “There’s some bad things about every life” in describing what these “friends” are going through. The play is about change and how people influence other’s lives whether they mean to or not. Productions of Inge’s plays do not often occur, this is one you should see.
The play will run Fridays thru Sundays until May 21st. Tickets are available at 760-433-8900 or go on line at www.oceansidetheatre.org. The theatre is located at 217 N. Coast Highway in Oceanside. Dining experiences are available through some of the sponsors of OTC, such as Masters Kitchen and Venetos Italian Cuisine.