Steve Parks, Newsday: It's been 60 years since "Picnic" premiered on Broadway. But as Roundabout Theatre's anniversary revival proves, art, like life, isn't fair. Some of us age better than others. Though William Inge won a Pulitzer Prize for "Picnic," it's never been successfully revived. Director Sam Gold and a plausible cast gamely attempt to recapture the traumas of small-town life that anchored Inge's four acclaimed plays...As if the art of conversation was as obsolete as the theater-lobby pay phones, Act I's idle chatter reveals an actor-to-actor inability to connect. Only when yelling commences does the cast wake up and smell the roles. And do they ever. Acts II and III give us a hint of why Inge, who committed suicide in 1973, was considered a literary lion.
Michael Musto, Village Voice: Sam Gold's new production is a mixed-bag stab at the play, pumping up the comedy in the first half, then going for slower, more somber tones in the second...But for this play to work--for it to be an American answer to Chekhov, with Tulsa standing in for Moscow--it's got to have a burning attraction at the center of it. Unfortunately, while Sebastian Stan has the glistening body for Hal...his performance is too posturey...And while Maggie Grace is lovely as Madge, she doesn't carve a distinctive figure, and certainly not one who seems fated to run off with Hal and gamble with the rest of her life. So the play about dashed hopes colliding with awakened desires isn't nearly as electric as it could be, but it's still a vintage trip back to muddled 1950s morality and the poetic hopes that rose up in spite of it.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: Stan ("Gossip Girl," "Captain America") has the right rugged looks for Hal, played by William Holden in the '55 film. He's a character built to be objectified as beefcake and to sizzle in shirtless scenes. Beefy Stan rivals the porterhouses at Peter Luger's and he brings out Hal's vulnerable side. Even better is Grace, a coltish blonde known for movies, including "Taken" and "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn." She's a natural onstage. Her work is assured and understated and brings an air of introspection to Madge.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: Maggie Grace ("The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn," "Taken") has a coltish, leggy elegance as Madge Owens. Sebastian Stan ("Captain America"), the dreamy outsider Hal Carter, isn't shy about showing off his chiselled torso, which is good because Hal's keeps losing his shirt or having it torn off him. Too bad they share youth and good looks, but no sizzle - there's more sexual chemistry among the cast of "Old Jews Telling Jokes."
Brendan Lemon, Financial Times: A stripped-down approach to match a stripped-down central character may one day restore Picnic's lustre; the setting here, a hulking house and porches designed by Andrew Lieberman, tends to overwhelm the performances, even when the interiors furnish an almost "American Gothic" glimpse of domesticity. This is a shame, because the play's central theme - how youthful beauty can be emotionally isolating - retains a certain potency. Maggie Grace, who plays 18-year-old Madge Owens, the pretty girl drawn into Hal's aura, gracefully registers the character's misfit quality, even as her chemistry with him doesn't greatly ignite.
Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record: My one quibble is with Stan's performance. Physique aside, it's sometimes hard to perceive Hal's mesmerizing appeal. The character remains blurry, and is too often played as a goofball. All in all, though, the production is theater you can sink your teeth into. Old-fashioned can be good.
Matt Windman, amNY: Director Sam Gold, who recently secured a spot on the A-list thanks to an association with playwright Annie Baker ("Circle Mirror Transformation"), provides a very enjoyable production that successfully combines the play's lighthearted, sadder and sensual aspects.
Erik haagensen, Backstage: The best work comes from Ben Rappaport, as Alan; Ellen Burstyn, as widowed neighbor Helen Potts; and especially the terrific Mare Winningham, as Madge and Millie's anxious mother, Flo. Rappaport ably captures Alan's light self-confidence and straight-arrow wholesomeness alongside his unappealing but unconscious objectification of Madge. Burstyn's Helen is appropriately self-effacing and sweetly rejuvenated as Hal's presence reminds her that she can still experience feelings she thought were gone forever.