The playwright, Eric Anderson, was a child in 1955 when Hollywood arrived in a small local Kansas town to film scenes for the movie “Picnic,” starring William Holden and Kim Novak, and he and his family actually performed in a crowd scene in the movie.
By Carol Edger Germain
He mentioned in an interview that he had considered creating a gay version of “Picnic”, then eventually decided on this story, partially as an homage to the gay author of “Picnic,” William Inge.
Directed by Kelie McIver, the play explores the clash of lifestyles and values of the Hollywood contingent and the residents in a rural small town. There are several issues causing sparks to fly, including the meeting of two not-quite-fully-out men, one from the small town and one a stunt man in the film.
Kenneth Klimak’s set is simple, yet full and convincing. It’s easy to feel you are sitting on the back porch with the characters (enhanced by the fact that Victory is an intimate sized theater). The porch is located at the home of widower Barney (Karl Maschek) and his two sons, 18-year-old Gary (Isaac W. Jay) and 12-year-old Del (Cody Lemmon). Gary is at a crossroads, scheduled to start at the local teachers’ college on a scholarship, but entertaining other options. Del is a very energetic young man just starting to expand his world and experience a bit. Gary wonders if being cast as an extra in the movie might open up some options, but he is devastated when he is not cast, exacerbated by the fact that Del is cast.
Del meets a man named Bill Holman (Jordan Morgan) on the set, who he mistakenly assumes is the star, William Holden, and he invites him to visit their home. Bill is actually Holden’s stunt double, but accepts the invitation, and the dance begins slowly between Bill and Gary. Gary’s distant relative, Myron (Eric Zak) is the only one to notice the connection, but no one pays attention to his usual blustering proclamations. Eventually, Barney’s neighbor and friend, Millard (Jonathan Fishman) observes a more-than-friendly intimate moment between Bill and Gary, and their relationship becomes an issue. What is their future? Will they declare themselves a couple? Will Gary move to Hollywood? The story plays out within the social structure of the times as they explore their life options.
Being a child of the 50’s Midwest myself, I enjoyed hearing a few of the slang expressions of that time (“spuds,” “raised in a barn,” “runny coleslaw,” “it’s just a phase”), but very much appreciated that Anderson did not stick completely to the typical mores of the times. He gives us an atypical family, a father who chooses to raise his sons alone after the death of their mother. Excellent cast, fast moving, interesting situations to consider, very well done.
Back Porch Written by Eric Anderson Directed by Kelie McIver Starring Jonathan Fishman, Isaac W. Jay, Code Lemmon, Karl Maschek, Jordan Morgan, Eric Zak Produced by David Willis and Kelie McIver Presented by Bluestem Productions The Victory Theatre Center 3326 W Victory Blvd Burbank, CA 91505 onstage411.com/BackPorch (818) 533-1611 Ample free street parking Through July 9 Fridays at 8 pm., June 30, July 7 Saturdays at 8 pm, June 24, July 1, July 8 Sundays at 4 pm, June 25, July 2, July 9
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