Sunday, October 3, 2010

Picnic by William Inge (1953)

Summary: Madge and Millie Owens are two sisters of "marrying age" who are preparing for a town picnic. While this is a relatively normal event, the stakes are raised when Hal Carter, a boy with a past, appears and is set up with Millie--the smarter and less attractive of the Owens sisters.  While Millie prepares for her first real date, mutual attraction develops between Madge (practically engaged to Hal's friend Alan) and Hal. This attraction results in a rape (?).  Ultimately, Madge states that she has feelings for him and is leaving her family behind to chase him on a train.

Thoughts: This play seemed a whole lot more banal until I typed, "This attraction results in a rape (?)"  The play was originally produced in 1953, and stereotypical gender roles are evident throughout. Mr. Owens is never seen and Mrs. Owens only infrequently refers to him, always with undertones of "that good for nothing I lusted after back in the day." Additionally, there is a pack of schoolteachers who are relegated to "old maid" status, until one of them essentially bullies a man into marrying her and whisking her away from her humdrum life. Well, come to think of it, this play is an interesting examination of gender, especially in rural landscapes of the 1950s. The entire play takes place on/around the front yards surrounding two porches and the setting and accompanying mentality reminded me of very much of Oklahoma!

"We're not goin' on no God-damn picnic."

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