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Drama Ensues and Characters Come to Life in ‘Picnic’

Brandon Zimmerman (as Hal Carter) and Tricia-Anne Gooden (as Madge) meet in secret and plan on running away together. Casey Budd/The Minaret

When I ventured down to the Falk Theater Friday night to see the performance of “Picnic,” I was unsure of what to expect. Could there possibly be a picnic involved? The suspense was killing me. From the onset of the show, I was hooked by the vivacious energy put out by the cast.

Their story begins in a rural Kansas town that seems to be lacking some vitality. However, their world is turned upside down when hotshot newcomer, Hal Carter (Brandon Zimmerman), struts into town. Zimmerman plays the role of a down-and-out ex-football star that’s seeking a place to stay while he straightens his life out. He finds refuge working as a farmhand for Helen Potts (Ashleigh Johnson), a lively middle-aged woman looking for some excitement in her life.

As the plot unfolds, Hal begins to fall for a girl named Madge (Tricia-Anne Gooden) the daughter of Flo Owens (Teree’ Douglas), a neighbor of Mrs. Potts. Unsurprisingly, however, it becomes apparent that Madge already has another love interest, Alan (Timothy Bourn). The drama ensues from there.

The show itself had a somewhat dull and ambiguous plot, but as an audience member I felt captivated for most of the show because of the stellar acting. The show boasts a primarily female cast that brings a tremendous amount of life and energy to their roles. Sophomore Elisha Sayed stole the show as Madge’s quirky, tomboy little sister that always seems to be meddling in everyone else’s business.

Most importantly, Sayed kept the show from becoming too dry with her bubbly charm and sassy humor. In addition to Sayed, sophomore Will Stone and senior Emily Thaler brought an awkward romance between an odd school teacher and an eccentric drunk to life with their strong on-stage chemistry and dynamic performing.

Stone said, “Our close relationship in real life allows us to have a sense of trust while working with each other on stage. Trusting each other in a scene significantly reduces the fear to try new things and allows us to free ourselves up. This way, it’s much easier to truly act in the moment.”

Acting-wise, there’s no question that each and every person delved deep into their roles to provide stunningly realistic representations of their characters. Production wise, the highly detailed set designed by Director Kerry Glamsch and Technical producer Alex Amyot made me feel like I was transported to the rural Kansas town that the show takes place in.

The set featured an old-fashioned style house, a picket fence and a visually intriguing backdrop that transformed the stage into a bright, 1950s pastoral landscape. In terms of costumes, lights and other various technical elements, the theatre department was nothing short of superb. Though not the most exciting show, “Picnic” captivated my attention mostly due to the convincing acting and high level of production and directing. If you missed “Picnic,” be sure to check out the fall musical “The Secret Life of Edwin Drood” coming this November to the Falk Theater.

Critic’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Griffin Guinta can be reached at griffinguinta@gmail.com.

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