Picnic

The Fourth of July weekend means barbecues and picnics, though few will be so eventful as Picnic, adapted in 1955 from William Inge's Pulitzer-winning drama. In that booming decade of American prosperity and power, even in small-town Kansas, there are worrying cracks and signs of discontent. A frustrated drifter (William Holden, never hunkier) arrives in town, looking for a job from his old college buddy; the latter intends to marry the local beauty queen (cow-eyed Kim Novak). But once she dances with Holden, in a long, sultry scene lit by Chinese lanterns, you know that Salinson, Kansas—and America, for that matter—will never be the same. The beauty queen doesn't want her tiara or rich fiance (Cliff Robertson). Her kid sister (Susan Strasberg) is a budding beatnik whose high-school teacher (Rosalind Russell) is being driven insane by impending old-spinsterhood. And Holden's rootless ex-jock declares, “I just got to get someplace in life! I just gotta!” Beneath the night summer sky in the heartland, all their thwarted longing achieves an urgency and an ache at odds with Eisenhower-era complacency. The old pieties and probities are surely being ripped apart. (G) BRIAN MILLER

July 1-3, 6:30 & 8:45 p.m.; Sat., July 2, 4 p.m.; Sun., July 3, 4 p.m.; July 5-7, 6:30 & 8:45 p.m., 2011

 
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