Odyssey Theatre Ensemble presents a revival of Picnic, the sensual, passionate and delightfully funny Pulitzer Prize winning play by William Inge. Directed by multiple award winner John Farmanesh-Bocca (Tempest Redux, Lysistrata Unbound), performances will run March 25 through May 28 at the Odyssey Theatre in West L.A. In addition, there will be two public previews, on Wednesday, March 22 and Thursday, March 23, followed by one press preview (also open to the public) on Friday, March 24.
Powerful and moving, Inge’s drama is not simply a breezy summer romance. Set in small town Kansas, this is a sexy world, dangerous and cruel, where residents keep each other in their place while longing to break free. When a handsome young drifter named Hal arrives on the eve of the annual Labor Day picnic, his combination of uncouth manners and titillating charm sends the women reeling — especially the beautiful Madge. Friendships are pushed to the limit and the fragile line between restraint and desire is stretched thin.
“Picnic, is a potent mix of deeply human juxtapositions — love and family, morality and longing, fortune and desperation, idealism and reality, frailty and resilience, fear and courage, prejudice and acceptance, small towns and big cities,” says Farmanesh-Bocca. “Essentially, it’s about America. Written in the ’50s, this timeless story explores enormous questions of identity; identity of self and the country we live in — an idea still struggling to live up to its promise, searching for its soul.”
Monti Washington (Games People Play on BET and Tyler Perry’s Bruh on BET+) stars as sexy drifter Hal Carter. Mattie Harris Lowe (recent graduate, USC School of Dramatic Arts) and Caitlin O’Grady (Dead Silent and Homicide Hunter on Investigation Discovery; Stop Kiss at the Little Theatre of Alexandria) alternate as beautiful young dreamer Madge Owens. Symphony Canady (Crumbs from the Table of Joy at Long Beach Playhouse) plays Madge’s smart-but-plain younger sister, Millie, and Yolanda Snowball (Theatre of Note/CTG Block Party’s For The Love Of (or, the roller derby play) at the Kirk Douglas Theatre) is their mother, Flo. Ahkei Togun (The Serpent at the Odyssey, Scraps at the Matrix) portrays Madge’s wealthy boyfriend, Alan Seymour. Sydney A. Mason (Fefu and Her Friends, Lysistrata Unbound at the Odyssey; August Wilson’s Seven Guitars, Radio Golf at A Noise Within)takes on the role of spinster schoolteacher Rosemary Sydney, with Ronin Lee (The Neighborhood on CBS; The Upshaws and The Lincoln Lawyer on Netflix) and Derrick Parker (off-Broadway and regional productions of The Old Settler, Topdog/Underdog, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) alternating as Rosemary’s suitor, storekeeper Howard Bevans. Rounding out the ensemble are Rosemary Thomas (Netflix’s The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, Snoop Dogg’s Bromates) as neighbor Helen Potts and Erika L. Holmes (Detective Evelyn Epps in L.A. Macabre on Amazon Prime) as Rosemary’s fellow schoolteacher, Irma Kronkite.
William Inge was one of the three most important playwrights in the American theater of the 1950s, along with Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. Nobody wrote more profoundly about the frustrations and longings of small-town Midwesterners. Considered his masterpiece, Picnic challenged the prevailing attitudes of the American Dream. People yearned for the normalcy of love, marriage and security after life-changing upheavals of World War II, but deep currents of discontent and desire for individuality were shaking the foundations of the small-town environment. Picnic premiered on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre in February 1953, receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. It was adapted into a motion picture in 1955, starring William Holden and Kim Novak, and has been revived twice on Broadway, in 1994 and again in 2013.
Performances of Picnic take place every Saturday at 8 p.m. and every Sunday at 2 p.m. from March 25 through May 28. In addition, there will be two performances on Wednesdays at 8 p.m.: May 19 and May 26; three performances on Fridays at 8 p.m.: April 28, May 19 and May 26; and three performances on Mondays at 8 p.m.: April 17, April 24 and May 8. Public previews take place on Wednesday, March 22 and Thursday, March 23 followed by a press preview (also open to the public) on Friday, March 24, with all previews beginning at 8 p.m.
Tickets to performances range from $25–$40, except Mondays, which are Pay-What-You-Will (reservations open online and at the door starting at 5:30 p.m.). Previews are priced at $20. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025