By Mayeesa Mitchell, Staff Writer
April 24, 2013
The High Point University Department of Theatre presented Picnic in the Pauline Theatre nightly from April 11 to April 14. Written in 1953 by William Inge, “Picnic” tells the story of a beautiful young woman named Madge Owens (Lauren Henkel) who has been going steady with Alan Seymour (Josh Stein) all summer. The day of the Labor Day picnic, Hal Carter (Justin Beard) comes into town and there is an immediate attraction between him and Madge. They both feed into their attraction, skipping the picnic to spend the night together and eventually running off to Oklahoma. Overall, “Picnic” is a story of how true love can come about in an instance and lead to both excitement and disappointment.
The play takes place in the shared yard of Flo Owens (Chrissy Bracken) and Helen Potts (Blair Cooper) in a small town in Kansas. The productions’ carpenters, properties crew and paint crew did a fantastic job of making the set as realistic as possible, even to the extent of putting real sod in the yard. The houses looked as if they were transposed from a normal neighborhood and then placed onto the theatre stage. The skill with which the set was created overshadowed the fact that it never changed throughout the duration of the show.
The casting for this production was superb, as each actor completely immersed themselves in their roles and made the audience believe their stories. As Madge Owen, Lauren Henkel portrayed the adventure-seeking “pretty girl” with insight and great ease. Chrissy Bracken, who had the lead in Kiss Me Kate last semester but was a supporting actress here, played Madge’s hardworking and slightly overprotective mother and shined throughout the play in such a way as has come to be expected of her here at HPU.
Most surprisingly, Kelsey Swann transformed and took on the role of the smart, artistic and tomboyish Millie Owen. She successfully captured the “tween” stage, too old to be around younger kids and too young to fit in with the adults, while relaying the innocence and bravery of her character. Newcomer, Mackie Quirk, who played Rosemary Sydney, a school teacher and boarder at Mrs. Owens’ home, added a unique level of sincerity within her characters breakout scene that is found amongst the best actresses in the country.
Although it was heartbreaking to see seniors, Chrissy Bracken, Lauren Henkel, Blair Cooper, William Allison and Turner Morehead take their last bow, it is clear that freshmen Mackie Quirk, Summer Kiesel and Lauren Quintal are ready to take their place, continuing the legacy of great theatre at HPU.
Overall, the set design and cast of HPU’s production of “Picnic” helped to create a realistic, sincere and emotional story that each of us can relate to in our own way.