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On Golden Pond
a Comedy/Drama
by Ernest Thompson

COMPANY : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
ID# 4533

SHOWING : January 24, 2014 - February 16, 2014



Ethel and Norman Thayer are spending their summer at their home on a lake called Golden Pond. This year they are visited by daughter Chelsea with her fiancé and his son in tow. Generations humorously and poignantly clash, as the play explores the often turbulent relationships of growing up, and the difficulties faced by a couple in the twilight years of a long marriage.

Director Kelly Criss
Billy Ray Sam Constantino
Charlie Martin Jim Dailey
Chelsea Thayer Wayne Dori Garziano
Norman Thayer, Jr. Theo Harness
Bill Ray Matt Lewis
Ethel Thayer Jackie Prucha
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With Pond Regards
by playgoer
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Let’s start with the set. Chuck Welcome has designed a set for "On Golden Pond" that combines elegance with rusticity and beauty. The walls are paneled, but not with standard rec room vertical panels; instead, sections of horizontal panels are joined with something akin to lathing strips. It’s elegant. The railing on a stairway is made of gnarled wood. It’s rustic. The upstage windows give a view of a stunning lake mural, wooded hills in the background. It’s beautiful. The room is set with matching seating in earth tone plaids, lots of nicely hung photos, and a stone fireplace. It’s all lovely to look at, with Kathy Manning’s props meshing beautifully with the overall design.

The set is beautiful, but not totally functional. A hat rack by the upstage door seems hung too high for the cast, and the perch for a fishing pole on the back of the sofa is not secure. Worst of all, the script makes specific mention of resting a doll on the ledge of a window, but the two-inch ledges make that an impossibility. These deficiencies detract from the performances of the actors, who should not have to deal with difficult set logistics (except, of course, the screen door that is supposed to fall off its hinges at every whipstitch).

And the performances are splendid. Theo Harness and Jackie Prucha have real chemistry as Norman and Ethel Thayer. There were a few line bobbles opening weekend, but I trust they will work themselves out during the run. The interactions of irascible Norman and sometimes coddling, sometimes challenging Ethel hit all the right notes. This is a couple we can enjoy watching for two hours.

Young Sam Constantino does a fine job as their grandson by marriage, and Dori Garziano Leeman adds a nicely naturalistic touch to her role as their daughter. Matt Lewis, as the daughter’s fiance, makes absolutely every moment and every movement count in his hilarious yet believable performance. (Keep him in mind during awards nomination season!) Jim Dailey, as the mailman (and former flame of the daughter), has exactly the engaging, enjoyable laugh the character is said to possess. This is as good an ensemble of actors as one could hope for in this play.

Jane Kroessig’s costumes work well throughout (although they might want tabs in the fishing hats to make them easier to hang). John David Williams’ lighting is subtle, but effective. And Jason Polhemus’ sound design, apart from a bobble in scene changing music, beautifully captures the Maine woods ambience and the sounds of motorboats and automobiles. The before-show sounds of birds and insects beautifully set the mood.

Director Kelly Criss has obviously expended some effort in getting the show up and running as smoothly and satisfyingly as it is. The pace seems to be a bit too leisurely, though. The opening sequence works well enough, with Theo Harness being thoroughly engaging while puttering around the cabin, but it goes on too long. There are other sequences that could use a volt more energy in the pacing. The biggest directorial slight, however, is in the relationship between Norman Thayer and Chelsea, his daughter. The history, as noted in the script, is that Norman has always been hard on his daughter, and she resents it. Theo Harness’ Norman puts on a gruff veneer, but we don’t get the feeling that the gruffness extends deeper than the surface. There has to be resentment on both sides to make the relationship ring true, or at least the feeling that Norman has written off Chelsea as a lost cause in terms of a relationship. The Norman we see is too vulnerable emotionally in his initial reactions to Chelsea, Our sympathies should be with Chelsea in this particular relationship, and the direction Ms. Criss has provided doesn’t allow this.

All in all, the qualities of the production far outweigh the flaws. "On Golden Pond" is a quiet play, dealing more in day-to-day moments than in high dramatic confrontations. The tone of Stage Door Players’ production is just right, leaving the audience with the elegiac sensation of a final sunset at a beloved vacation spot. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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