THEATRE REVIEW: PICNIC
By Jain Lemos
“Picnic” enjoys a fresh spin at The Adobe Theater this August, bringing a few new arrivals to their stage. William Inge’s 1953 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama examines the obsession with youth and beauty in the pursuit of relationships. Set on the last day of summer in a small Kansas town, a bevy of women neighbors representing every phase of maturity anticipate their prospects of romance before the last social event of the season.
The youngest fem is Kimberly Sengir as Millie Owens, a brainiac tomboy who is tired of living in the shadow of her older sister’s attractiveness. This is Sengir’s first performance in New Mexico and she easily masters the bold spirit of Mille. It’s a blast watching her assume the slightly bent and sneaky posture of an adolescent brat. Millie’s prime 18-year-old sister Madge (Kiersten Johnson) has become expressively worn-out from the pressure of having to be the perfect pretty one. In her debut as a leading cast member, Johnson relishes her considerable time on stage and keeps flawless pace with the action. Through the acts, she grows into the character and emerges quite poised.
H. K. Philips is superb as the girls’ single parent, Flo, who must make sure her daughters find good providers so their lives turn out to be more successful than hers. Philips also makes her first appearance with the Adobe and in “Picnic” she shows great command of Inge’s profile of a loving and hardworking mother. The Owens share a common wall with aging schoolteacher Rosemary Sydney, played with bravado by Carolyn Hogan, who is no stranger to the Adobe family. Hogan finds the right swagger in portraying the spinster’s desperation to find a husband for herself and she punches her lines with unflappable style—even after the whiskey takes effect.
The matriarch of this street, Helen Potts (Gail Gillock Spidle) has been relegated to caretaker for her failing mother, who we hear shouting for Helen from the house but never see. Spidle is a theater veteran and she brings her reliable performance abilities to this role, floating about the younger people with a sense of purpose while recoiling at the sound of old age calling over her shoulder. Drea Maletta and Heather Donovan as schoolteachers Irma Kronkite and Christine Schoenwalder appear to be having an amusing time primping and gossiping in their vignettes.
For the ladies (and the audience), all eyes are on 6’5” tall Nick Fleming as Hal Carter, the ne’er-do-well stud who brings the mixed-up, unmarried group the excitement they’ve been longing for. Fleming does exemplary work with the part William Holden memorialized in the 1955 film version. Fleming maintains high energy throughout and exposes Hal’s softer side in the closing scenes with fine skill. Albuquerque native Brian Wise marks “Picnic” as his first stage play cast as Madge’s well-heeled paramour, Alan Seymour, providing strong support opposite Fleming in the more substantial role.
Rounding out the men’s team are Ken West who is entertaining as the non-committal Howard Bevans and Jackson Krebbs playing rowdy Bomber Gutzel. All-in-all, this assembly takes Inge’s well-worn material and makes it their own, under the sturdy direction of Daryl Streeter, marking his seventh production for the Adobe.
“Picnic” runs at The Adobe Theater weekends through Sunday, August 30, and offers their special “Pay What You Will” performance to benefit the cast and crew on Thursday, August 20 at 7:30pm. Get tickets and find out more on their website.