When hunky Hal Carter drifts into a sleepy Kansas town without his shirt, all bets are off for the annual Labor Day picnic to go on as planned in William Inges Pulitzer Prize-winning play Picnic, now playing at The Little Theatre of Alexandria.
The sexually charged 1953 play tells the story of a college football hero, Hal, who is now unemployed, adrift and looking for work. He seeks out an old fraternity brother, Alan Seymour, and quickly begins a flirtation with the prettiest girl in town, who just happens to be Seymours girlfriend.
The object of both suitors attention is Madge Owens, a role that made Kim Novak a star in the popular 1955 Academy Award-winning film that captured the conflict between decency and lust during the 1950s.
In LTAs version of Inges play on heightened sexual tensions, veteran Brain Razzino ably tackles the role of Hal, notably played on stage and screen by such heartthrobs as Paul Newman and William Holden. Razzino has the sensuous swagger, charisma and yes, the sculpted pecs, needed to captivate not only Madge, but the audience as well.
Competing with Hal for Madges attention is LTA newcomer Jeffrey Clarke in the role of Alan. Clarke convincingly plays the respectful, wealthy, but ultimately unexciting Alan, who just cannot compete with the magnetic Hal.
Elizabeth Keith, making her LTA debut, is the bored but beautiful Madge, torn between the predictable but secure future offered by Alan, or a sensuous but meager future with Hal.
Under the direction of Howard Vincent Kurtz, the actors bring a chemistry and tension to the characters that embodies the frustration of Inges snapshot of Midwest existence during the 1950s.
With a stellar supporting cast, two noteworthy standouts are Rebecca Lenehan as Rosemary, a frustrated schoolteacher played with comic bravado by Lenehan, and the exceptionally gifted Anna Penniman as Madges younger sister Millie.
Penniman in particular perfectly captures the histrionics of adolescence as well as the awkward insecurity of being the brain to Madges beauty in town.
And when Lenehan lusts after the shirtless Hal, it is with an intensity that leaves the women in the audience with drool on their chins.
Rounding out the cast are Nancy Thompson as Helen Potts, the neighbor who takes in the sexy stranger, Jan Gaskins as Flo Owens, mother to Madge and Millie, Charles Palmer as Rosemarys reluctant suitor, and Elizabeth Replogle and Robin Ann Carter as spinster schoolteachers.
With costumes by Beverley Benda and set design by director Kurtz, the bleak existence of the sleepy Kansas town is convincingly recreated in rich but austere detail.
Produced by Margaret Evans-Joyce and Richard Schwab, LTAs Picnic capably delivers what Inge, dubbed the Playwright of the Midwest, intended in the thought-provoking and sexually-charged drama and brings the groundbreaking play to a new generation of audiences.
Picnic is playing now through October 11 at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe St. For tickets or more information, call 703-683-0496 or visit www.thelittletheatre.com.