Theater review: Life’s not always a ‘Picnic’

Hal (Sebastian Stan) turns life upside-down for Madge (Maggie Grace) in "Picnic," now playing through Feb. 24.

You might say that “Picnic,” William Inge’s 1953 drama in which nascent love trumps prim practicality, waxes somewhat sentimental — but the stunning production at the American Airlines Theatre is anything but. Deftly designed, meticulously lit and cast to perfection, its passions are writ large and felt deep; they’re often wrenching, but without mawkish accoutrements. Its only excess — Sebastian Stan’s buff torso seems more oiled than sweat-drenched — is soon forgiven as the audience joins the sex-starved spinsters onstage in gaping at his incredibly ripped physique.

Stan plays Hal, a down-on-his-luck drifter who’s doing yard work for Mrs. Potts (Ellen Burstyn), neighbor to Flo Owens (Mare Winningham) and her daughters Madge (Maggie Grace) and Millie (Madeleine Martin). He’s come to their small Kansas town seeking help from his old college roommate, Alan (Ben Rappaport), who is also Madge’s boyfriend. But Madge proves a more compelling source of succor. She and Hal skip the Labor Day picnic, to the dismay of flinty Flo and smitten Alan. Meanwhile the Owens’ boarder, Rosemary (Elizabeth Marvel), a borderline old maid, decides it’s time to put the screws to her boyfriend Howard (Reed Birney): She desperately begs him to marry her.   

Director Sam Gold and his amazing cast make the ordinary seem luminous. The play’s exploration of life’s daily disappointments and its all-too-rare triumphs is intimate and matter-of-fact, seasoned with broad (and not-so-broad) humor and grand passion. Every cast member pulses with humanity, endowing Inge’s characters with vibrant life.

If you go

Through Feb. 24
American Airlines Theatre,
227 West 42nd Street,
$42-127, 212-719-1300


Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.


Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…


OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…


MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.


Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."


'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.


'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."


TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.


Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.


Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.


Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”


Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.


Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.


Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…


NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.


The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.