Hot in the Heartland: The Yearning Lovers of William Inge's Picnic
12 Jan 2013
Sebastian Stan and Maggie Grace
Photo by Joan Marcus
The beaten-down drifter and antsy ingénue of Broadway's Picnic turn each other's lives upside down. Meet Sebastian Stan and Maggie Grace, who are given an Inge and take a theatrical mile.
"Hello, young lovers, whoever you are…"
Broadway might well wonder this of the two 29-year-olds who got the star-crossed spot in the Roundabout revival of William Inge's Pulitzer Prize-winning Picnic.
But the rest of the world is pretty hip to Maggie Grace and Sebastian Stan. She was the spoiled heiress who sunbathed to excess among the plane-crash survivors on "Lost," and he spent 2012 alternating on the small screen as Jefferson the Mad Hatter on "Once Upon a Time" and Sigourney Weaver's son on "Political Animals."
Instantly — at the press meet-and-greet for the cast that director Sam Gold corralled for this revival, Elizabeth Marvel, Reed Birney, Mare Winningham and Ellen Burstyn among them — the pair, who play Madge Owens and Hal Carter, respectively, took center stage. Grace, in all her willowy blonde radiance, could only be the town beauty heading down the aisle with the local factory owner's son. Stan, in a beat-up brown leather jacket, is the scruffy, sexy drifter-dreamer who'll upend her life over one eventful Labor Day.
Joshua Logan won a Tony directing Janice Rule and Ralph Meeker in the original 1953 play and an Oscar nomination directing Kim Novak and William Holden two years later in the movie version — and the rules of animal attraction were in full force when these two characters come together on a dance floor.
When they do come together, it's with very mixed baggage. College dropout Hal, banged up by the real world, has come to town to see if his fraternity brother Alan (Ben Rappaport) can fix him up at his father's factory — he unrealistically sees it as an executive position. Picture-pretty Madge has her problems too: a mother (Winningham) who sees beauty as a man-trapping device ("A pretty girl doesn't have long"); a sister (Madeleine Martin), younger and smarter, resentfully chanting "Madge is the pretty one!" Even Madge finds it wearisome, confiding to Hal,"I get so tired of just being told I'm pretty."
Holed up in a seedy motel on the edge of the Mojave Desert, two former lovers unpack the deep secrets and dark desires of their tangled relationship, passionately tearing each other apart. Led by director Daniel Aukin (Back Back Back at MTC, 4,000 Miles), Tony winner Nina Arianda (Venus in Fur at MTC, Born Yesterday) and Sam Rockwell (A Behanding in Spokane, The Way Way Back) bring an explosive intensity to Sam Shepard’s (Buried Child, True West) landmark myth of the new Wild West.