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'Picnic' Proves Exactly That For First Night Audience

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‘Picnic' Proves Exactly That For First Night Audience


A summer romance in three acts and

four scenes by William Inge. Presented

by the Ann Arbor Civic Theater. Direct-

ed by Ted Heusel. Setting by Robert

Maitland. Lighting by Margaret and

Howard Fox.


Ruth Livingston, Al Douglass, Mary

Lee Merrlman, William Taylor, Joan

Conover, Autumn Routsen, Carl Gingles,

Lois Symons, Nancy Witham, Gladys

Hanson and Patrick Smith.

By Ronald Muchnick

In all its 26 years, it doesn’t

seem possible that the Civic 

Theater could have had as suc-

cessful an opening night as yes-

terday's unveiling of its produc-

tion of William Inge’s successful

Broadway comedy-drama “Pic-

nic.” It was a evening of

grade-A entertainment and every-

one concerned can take special

pride in the achievement.

The play which Inge describes

as a summer romance is full of

fascinating personalities and, for

an amateur group, director Ted

Heusel has drawn unbelievably

fine performances from a large

cast. As far as last night’s viewers

were concerned, this was far from

an amateur production.

Into a conservative Kansas

small-town neighborhood comes

Hal Carter, a handsome extrovert

with few inhibitions. His effect

on the lives of some half-dozen

rather sheltered females forms

the crux of the play which con-

stantly had the audience laugh-

ing—often in an attempt to keep

from crying.

Beneath a surface of consid-

erable hearty humor, the play-

wright lays bare the souls of his

characters with sympathy and


Staged With Fast Pace

Heusel has staged the work at

an extremely fast pace, while

managing to maintain a seem-

ingly languid atmosphere. And

the cast members, having cap-

tured the audience’s interest at

the opening moment, retain it

until the final curtain.

It is difficult to know where to

begin in discussing the individual

performances, as all of the char-

acterizations have been blended

skillfully into a perfect whole.

In the role of Madge, a beauti-

ful but not too bright girl, Ruth

Livingston is very credible in

what is probably the most dif-

ficult assignment of her career.

She acts with simplicity and keen

insight. There is a touching glow

to her portrayal, making it a

memorable one.

Al Douglass as the braggart

Hal is excellent in another dif-

ficult role. He clearly depicts

both the brash exterior and the

inner lack of self-confidence. Here

is another memorable perform-



If the work of Miss Livingston

and Douglas is described with

superlatives, the same must be

done for the performances of

Mary Lee Merriman and William

Taylor. Their roles of a spinster

school teacher and a local busi-

nessman she talks into marrying

her, are gems of writing, and they

are interpreted with skill, com-

passion and great good humor.

Shows Versatility

After playing a series of both

sophisticated and unsophisticated

glamour girls in previous Civic

Theater shows, Joan Conover

proves herself a mettlesome ac-

tress as the bookwormish tomboy

sister. Some of the finest mo-

ments of the evening come as she

experiences maturity.

Carl Gingles brings a helpful

strength to the role of Madge's

boy friend and is admirable in

both his romantic and more em-

otional scenes. In her first major

Civic role, Autumn Routsen han-

dles the part of the mother cap-


Lois Symons does well as the

next-door neighbor and Nancy

Witham is hysterically funny a

a female gym teacher. Gladys

Hanson and Patrick Smith round

out this amazingly talented cast.

The setting and lighting give

the actors strong support. Robert

Maitland has come up with an-

other set as attractive and inter-

esting as his work for “The Moon

Is Blue.” Much of the lighting by

Margaret and Howard Fox is very

effective and eases the play from

one mood to another with a sup-

ple grace.

The one sad note about the

offering is that there are only

two remaining performances—to-

night and Saturday at 8 p.m. in

the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater.

Do yourself a favor; go and have

a wonderful time.