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Rockville Little Theatre On Golden Pond

By • Dec 6th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
On Golden Pond by Ernest Thompson
Rockville Little Theatre
Gaithersburg Arts Barn, Gaithersburg, MD
Through December 19th
2:10 with one intermission
$15/$13 Gaithersburg residents
Reviewed December 3rd, 2010

On Golden Pond is a play by Ernest Thompson. A couple in their “golden years” spend their summers in the quaint fishing town in Maine. Norman is struggling with his declining health and inevitable death. His wife Ethel is the caregiver who loves Norman very much. When their daughter Chelsea and her new boyfriend Bill, accompanied by Bill’s son Billy, come for Norman’s 80th birthday and then leave Billy with them for the summer, Norman feels like his “young” self again as he befriends Billy. A scare at the end of the show reminds the married couple of the fact that they are no longer the spring chickens they thought they were.

Despite some questionable directorial decisions, the performance as a whole was well done and enjoyable. The cast all seemed be comfortable on stage and maintained a smooth pacing that kept the show from becoming overly slow and plodding.

Norman and Ethel Thayer were a likable couple. Norman, played by Larry Berenson, was crusty, but quick-witted with a deadpan style of humor. He knew how to get into your head. In the play Norman was celebrating his 80th birthday while at Golden Pond. Borenson carried himself as far younger than 80. Likewise Hillary Mazer as his wife Ethel played her character younger than upper 60s. Mazer, too was spry. Perhaps that was due to having to keep up with Norman and his medical issues. Mazer’s concern for Norman was real by being evident on her face.

Another character that had excellent control of expressions and knew how and when to use them was Chelsea Thayer Wayne played by Leta Hall. Hall knew when to be nervous and knew when to let her emotions shine. Hall is always a delight to watch. Berenson and Hall shared a very emotional scene late in the show, Director Anne Cary allowed the scene to unfold gradually with just enough tension that we weren’t sure how their relationship would end up.

In the category of Most Infectious Laugh the winner goes to Lars Wilcutt as Charlie Martin, the mailman. Whether that was his natural laugh, or if he worked on it, but it was great. Wilcutt was so down to earth that he was extremely likable. He and Chelsea played a comfortable friendship that came out in their scenes together. Wilcut even kept his New England accent through out the evening.

Billy Ray, the son of Bill Ray the boyfriend of Chelsea Thayer Wayne, was played by Sam Egber. Egber’s character was a likable fellow. This was problematic because on his dirst introduction he should have come across a typical teenager; surly, rebellious and a pain in the butt. By the second half he should have lightened up enough to be tolerable. But he started out likeable, so the audience saw no real change in his character and didn’t see any conflict building between him and the Thayers.

Bill Ray, played by Eric Henry, was a bit too country. It was difficult seeing him as being from Los Angeles. Henry played being uneasy in the country quite well, but his costume and overall bearing didn’t appear to be so different from the East Coast.

The program lists the setting and scenes as present day, yet there were several anachronisms, such as the rotary phone, live operator (played by Amy Narron) who carried on a conversation not once, but twice, and the car that Chelsea rented. The smooth lighting transitions by Lighting Designer/Executioner Amy Narron kept the performance in a good rhythm. A well-designed set by Set Designer David Kaysen made the living room comfortable and functional. The placement of the armchair made it difficult to see Bill’s face as he chatted with Norman. It was an interesting attention to detail that the door to the cottage was broken in the first act perhaps showing Norman’s depression and loss of interest in life. Then in the second act you have a fixed door and a Norman with a renewed zest for life.

An engaging production looking at a real subject that none of us can escape: aging and its eventual outcome.

Director’s Notes

Directing On Golden Pond has been an engaging ang wonderful experience. Its themes of mortality, family relationships and change resonate more deeply with me now than when I first saw the movie almost 30 years ago.

Thompson’s aging Norman is frightened by his failing health and declining mental acuity. As he sees the strengths of his youth and middle years melt away, he becomes increasingly isolated and critical, allowing only Ethel to see behind the faced. In contrast, Ethel’s outgoing, optimistic and energized self seeks to use their strong and enduring love to keep death and loss at bay. Billy’s arrival allows Norman to put on again the persona of a teacher and alter his negativity. Once again the esteemed educator, Norman shares with Billy his love of books, fishing and French. The unlikely cross-generational friendship triggers a true softening in Norman’s character, just as Chelsea’s relationship with Bill-a relationship between adults, forces her to rethink her bitter attitude towards her parents, especially Norman. Thompson’s humor and wit and his well drawn character tell an engaging yet familiar story. Thompson highlights generational changes. The summer cabin, once a staple of East Coast family life, has been truncated into a week at the beach or a trip to Europe or Costa Rica. Lazy weeks at Summer camp give way to intensive lacrosse, basketball, or film ca mp. For-ever-after marriages are replaced by didn’t-work-out relationships. Even faced with this onstnt evolution, Thompson’s message is a clear belief that growth and change is ever possible, no matter what our age.

Photo Gallery

RLT OGPond 012 cropped_edited-2 RLT OGPond 016 cropped_edited-1
RLT OGPond 019 cropped_edited-1 RLT OGPond 022 cropped_edited-1
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Photo by Dean Evangelista.

Cast

  • Norman Thayer, Jr: Larry Bergenson
  • Ethel Thayer: Hillary Mazer
  • Charlie Martin: Lars Wilcut
  • Chelsea Thayer Wayne: Lets Hall
  • Billy Ray: Sam Egber
  • Bill Ray: Eric Henry
  • Operator: Amy Narron

Crew

  • Director: Anne Cary
  • Co-Producer: Mandy Keating
  • Co-Producer: David Levin
  • Assistant Director: Pamela Freedy
  • Stage Manager: Amy Narron
  • Set Designer: David Kaysen
  • Master Carpenter: David Kaysen
  • Scenic Artist: Anna Britton
  • Props: Margie Henry
  • Set Dressing: Anne Cary, Mandy Keating
  • Lighting Designer/Execution: Amy Narron
  • Sound Designer: Patrick Hughes
  • Sound Execution: Devon Egber
  • Running Crew: Margie Henry, Laurie Freed, Pam Freedy, Jack Egber
  • Set Construction: David Kaysen, David Levin, Eric Henry, Frank Adler
  • Set Painting: Lars Wilcut, Hillary Mazer,Anne Cary, Joshua Lopez, Chris Hylton, Alysa Somnasri, Paul Aiamsubhab, Abby Root, Mandy Keating
  • Publicity: Ken Lemp
  • Photographer: Dean Evangelista

Disclaimer: Rockville Little Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

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