PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Picnic; Inge Benefits

By Harry Haun
14 Jan 2013


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Stan confessed his washboard abs were not casually arrived at: "I definitely train a lot."

He continued, "There are a lot of things I like about Hal — his impulsiveness, particularly. He wants to live every moment, and that gets him into trouble sometimes. He's very much a full-living, breathing person without any censorship."

When Marvel steps center-stage in her smartly tailored suit, with its sensible chapeau, she is the spitting image of Eileen Heckart, the original Rosemary. She, of course, didn't see that performance, but she did see Rosalind Russell in the movie version, and, if she seems to be applying her beauty cleanser a little too sensually as she is watching the shirtless Hal, you can count that as a little homage to Roz.

The famous proposal scene that begins Act Two, where she sandblasts a commitment out of her Howard, is tour de force stuff. "I love what a fighter Rosemary is. I love that she just goes after what she wants and makes it happen. That scene is like music, really. You just begin with a note, and you play it through. The scene plays itself because the writing is so perfect."



As her reluctant and then resigned groom, Birney gets the longest laugh of the night, grudgingly carting her luggage to the honeymoon getaway-car. "It's pretty consistently a big, big laugh," he admitted. "The audiences have been so wonderful, and it's very gratifying to see people respond. I've never played anybody like Howard. I'm usually playing neurotic East Coast people. He's a very simple guy, leading a very unexamined life, and it's a very different kind of a part for me. I love it."

Incredibly, this is Birney's first Broadway show since his debut in 1977's Gemini — he has been working prodigiously (and prize-winningly) Off-Broadway — and he had to get in step. "It's a muscle that I have not used in a long time. You gotta have some size to fill that room. Uncle Vanya [at Soho Rep in 2012] had 77 seats. This has 750 so it's a big difference."

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