On a clear night with temperatures in the mid-60s, NOVA Nightsky Theater returned with an outdoor production of William Inge’s “Picnic.” Theater-goers brought their own chairs, blankets and snacks to enjoy the fall weather, eat some dinner and watch the show.
This was the first production by the newly formed group that proves the old saying “the show must go on.” Jaclyn Robertson, co-founder of NOVA Nightsky Theater and actress in the show, was injured in a serious accident right before tech week.
“Live theater is just that, it’s live,” said an update posted on their website in early October. “And much like life, it can be unpredictable, exciting and scary all at once. NOVA Nightsky has experienced this in the past couple of weeks as we have had to regroup after our producer/one of our actors was injured in a serious accident. This week we should be heading into our dress and tech rehearsals, but instead we are re-blocking and restaging to accommodate a less mobile actor so the show can go on. In ordinary circumstances, re-blocking a show this late in the game is a challenge, but lucky for us, we have a group of actors so committed to this show and to each other that it has been nothing short of a joy to experience. We are excited for you to join us for our new version of Picnic!”
While some small adjustments were made to the set in order to make it more accessible, they were hardly noticeable to anyone in the audience.
“Picnic” takes place in a small town in Kansas in the 1950s. Despite the fact that the entire play revolves around the characters going to a town picnic, the play all takes place on the back porch of the Owens family.
Hal Carter arrives in town looking for work and to reconnect with his college friend Alan Seymour who just so happens to be dating the most beautiful girl in town, Madge Owens. Hal finds some work doing jobs for the Owens’ next door neighbor, Helen Potts.
Flo Owens, mother of Millie and Madge, finds herself distrustful of Hal but agrees to allow him to take Millie as his date to the picnic but Hal finds himself more attracted to Madge, Millie’s older sister and his friend’s girlfriend.
Madge also finds herself falling for Hal and the two skip the community picnic to spend the night together. Alan finds out and calls the police on Hal who has to run away before he gets caught, leaving Madge behind before she makes the decision to go after him.
While the play is dramatic and deals with heavy themes, there were plenty of moments for comedic relief as well. Actor Chuck O’Toole provides laughs to the audience through his over-the-top movements and dancing.
Madge, played by Jaclyn Robertson, pulls the audience in, making them truly feel the heartbreak she is experiencing after her night with Hal comes to an end.
While this play in particular is no longer taking place as of the publication of this review, I would absolutely recommend seeing their next production as the acting, set design and costumes for this piece were all incredible, particularly considering the obstacles that came into place during the lead up to the production and the fact that this was the group’s very first play.
NOVA Nightsky Theater’s next performance will take place in January with the play “Leaving Bedrooms,” a romantic comedy written by the group’s co-founder and director of “Picnic”, Ward Kay. More information can be found on their website at https://www.novanightskytheater.com/upcoming-performances .