Feb 25, 2018

A Hundred Shirtless Hals in "Picnic"

Picnic is a 1953 play by William Inge about a drifter named Hal, who arrives in a small town in search of his old college buddy and arouses the secret passions of the male and female townsfolk (Inge was gay).

The original play doesn't actually call for Hal to take his shirt off, but ever since William Holden did in the 1955 film version, actors in Broadway revivals and community and college theaters across the country have been stripping down to show us their stuff.

Remember, Hal is a drifter, so he probably doesn't work out; yet he has to be hot enough to incite a lot of secret passions.  So his degree of muscularity varies from production to production.

Jenson Kerr at the Phoenix Theater goes for the abs.

Spencer Sickman at ACT St. Louis goes for the skinny.

David T. Patterson goes for the full bodybuilder pecs and shoulders at the Gym at Judson Memorial Church, an off-off Broadway theater.  Sorry, this guy is incredibly hot and all, but he doesn't look at all like a 1950s drifter.

Justin Sease has long hair and a glory trail to imbue Hal with a 1990s feel at the Hampton Theatre Company.

The Antaeus Theatre Company in Glendale, California, stars Daniel Bess with a bulge and a 2000s hipster smirk.

More after the break

Secret passions, infidelity, and homoerotic hijinks mean that Picnic doesn't get much play in high school, but you see it occasionally.  Ty Dalrymple (great name!) plays an understated Hal at Coppell High School in small-town Texas.

It doesn't appear very often at colleges, either, maybe because there are too few female parts..  The University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music performed it in 2010 (although it's not a musical).  Stephen Shore played a dumb-lug version of Hal.

Riverland Community College. in Minnesota cast this skinny guy with tattoos, which were rare in the 1950s.  Not the best casting choice.

I don't know who played Hal in the Theater Three production in Dallas, Texas, but his male-model face and perfect hair have to go.  His pecs can stay.

Philip Shinn at the Kansas City Actors Rep gives us a country-western singer Hal.

This is the perfect Hal, from the Roundabout Theater on Broadway.  Sebastian Stan brings back the basics, muscular but not buffed, tanned, sweaty, a little sleazy.

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