These triangulations are the lifeblood of Picnic, which is most compelling in the scenes in which a number of these relationships are constellated at once, with the focus slipping quietly from one to the next. The most powerful example of this comes just before folks leave for the picnic and are hanging out in the yard, dancing. Lamb’s cast makes this extended scene poignant and gracefully revealing, from Hal’s insecure preening to Howard mild lechery toward Madge; from Rosemary’s frustration with Howard’s clownish moves to Millie’s plodding effort to learn a new dance from Hal — and her resigned dejection when Madge comes out and immediately performs the step effortlessly.
The subsequent close dancing of Madge and Hal, a charged moment in the play, increases everyone’s emotional volatility, and Doyle and Lorenz give their attraction a slow, rising warmth that holds both lust and innocence. It’s both a personal awakening and a symbol of an inevitable, timeless coming of age of an entire community.
Picnic | by William Inge | Directed by Ellen Claire Lamb and Tony Sousa | Presented by Gaslight Theater, at the Hallowell Town Hall | through August 31 | 207.626.3698
, William Inge, Gaslight Theater