by DICK KEREKES
Last weekend Orange Park Community Theatre opened William Inge’s Pulitzer Prize winning Picnic will be on stage the month of March in their cozy theatre at 2900 Moody Road in Orange Park. This is OPCT’s last show of the season before their traditional big summer musical which this year is The Producers. Call 276-2599 to reserve seats.
Theatergoers in North Florida do not often have the opportunity to see Pulitzer Prize winning plays, so don’t miss this contemporary classic. The 1953 play was made into an Oscar nominated best picture in l955 with William Holden, Kim Novak and Rosalind Russell. I loved the movie but I like the play even more because it is so well written.
The plot concerns a drifter Hal Carter who arrives in a small Kansas town and immediately wins the love of his college friend’s girl, Madge. The other women in town seem interested too as Hal causes sexual havoc in less than 24 hours. The plot takes an interesting look at women’s emotions in the 50s, both young and older ladies and how they feel about the men in their life and those that had been part of their lives.
The handsome young wander, Hal, was played by Jacksonville University student, Erick Crow. Due to an emergency, Crow took over the leading role on Wednesday and opened Friday night. I saw the show on Saturday and Crow did carry a script but knew most of the first act and a good portion of Act II. He did an excellent acting job and capturing the bravado of this dreamer.
Hal’s, college friend, Adam, the rich boy who seemed to have the inside track to the affections of Madge, is played by Adam Woodford, in his theatrical debut. Woodford was very good in his initial venture on a stage, and you will be seeing more of him I am sure, he is a good looking guy.
Debbie Hurm plays Flo Owens, a lonely middle aged woman who cares for her elderly mother (who you never see, but you can hear yelling from off stage). Hers is a key role because she hired Hal to do some odd jobs around his house, thus introducing him to her next door neighbor, Helen (Sara Green) and her two daughters, Madge and Millie. Helen too, is without a man in her life, and truly wants Madge to marry the rich guy and lets everyone know this.
Millie, a very talented but rather plain teenager , plays second fiddle to her beautiful sister. Schuyler Velasco is terrific as Millie and is very animated and believable. Orange Park regulars remember her from very funny rule as Millicent in Sin, Sex, and the CIA and she tops that role here.
Rosemary is a middle-aged school teacher who boards with the Owens, and is constantly referring to herself as an old maid. Korina Barber is wonderful as this funny and desperate woman who feels like life is passing her by. Pickings are slim in the man department in this small town, and Rosemary has set her sights on happy-go-lucky, heavy drinking and hapless businessman Howard Bevins. T. J. Howard has been in several plays at OPCT and is fine as the reluctant boyfriend. Howard is, though too handsome for this part. I know when you got it, you’ve got it but I suggest he could have been dressed a bit more like a nerd with perhaps with suspenders and maybe plaid pants to make him a bit more unattractive. Ms. Barber’s and Mr. Howard’s final scene as they leave to get married is a highlight of the show.
Rachel Hatton as Irma and Lindsay Curry as Christine, perform two wonderful cameos as fellow school teachers in the same boat as Rosemary J (low paying jobs and no men!))
Jacksonville University music major, Malone Thomas is picture perfect as not so smart but oh so beautiful love interest. How beautiful? Just imagine a young Brooke Shields! Ms. Thomas captures the innocence and naivety of a girl trying to find herself. I can’t wait to hear her sing, as I noted in her program biography she has done the role of Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd and Laurey in Oklahoma before moving to Jacksonville. Kyle Harmon rounds out the cast as Bomber, the sharp tongued paper boy.
I can’t make up my mind whether I would rather see John Pope as an actor or John Pope as a director, he does both so well and Jacksonville was so fortunate when he and his actress wife Sue decided to settle in this area. Pope has his actors bring out the small moments which make this play so interesting as a study of life in bygone times, and truly is a prize winner. Pope also designed the excellent set featuring two homes that share a back yard, with the wide open spaces of Kansas in the background. Lighting Designer David Wells, created a wonderful warm evening scene in Act II, and with Sound Designer Connie Senkowski’s selection of “Moonglow” as background music, we basked in the sunset of this unique Labor Day in the lives of interesting characters. Kudos to Rachel Hatton’s costumes selections that visually completed our journey back to the l950s. Don’t miss this show!
by DICK KEREKES