Marietta’s Theatre In The Square celebrates its 30th year by returning gracefully to its original season with a revival of On Golden Pond.  Director Heidi Cline McKerley brings Ernest Thompson’s play to the theatre with an eye to both the pathos and the comedy in the original offering.  On Golden Pond was the first play the theatre showed, and many in attendance at a recent gala preview had been with the theatre since that first opening night.  It was both fitting and slightly uncomfortable that the theatre celebrated this anniversary with a play about aging, for the audience itself, which had watching the play the first time with some detachment of youth no doubt, shared a palpable understanding with the struggles of the characters as Norman and Ethel faced the struggles and joys of the twilight years.

Though not perfect, the production was an exceptional work of local theatre.  The plot involves an octogenarian, Norman Thayer (Peter Thomasson), who fears death and his own weakening mind, and his slightly younger wife , Ethel (Judy Leavell), spending a summer at their family lake house  in Maine, while hosting a young teenager with a smart mouth and lot of questions about the world around him.  Norman is a witty though bitter man who has spent many years estranged for his daughter, Chelsea.  Chelsea, in her 40s, comes to visit for Norman’s 80th Birthday party and brings Billy Ray (Charles Horton), her new boyfriend, and his son, Billy Ray Jr (Charlie Garland . . . on opening night he was portrayed by Elijah Marcano).   During the summer Billy Ray Jr. and Norman bond in unexpected ways.

There were difficulties in the production, but most of these difficulties were related to the script itself.  We are not even introduced to the primary storyline until very late in the first act.  This was written before the world discovered MTV and it is evident in the ponderous pacing.  Another disconnect evident in the play is that Norman’s fading memory and early stages of dementia are played for laughs.  Bart Hansard, the actor playing Charlie the post man who had dated Chelsea earlier in her life, presented a paradox.  Obviously a talented actor, he was filled with such infectious laughter and likability, which seemed out of place in this play.

Despite these few difficulties, the ensemble produced a warm, loving, and engaging performance.  The leads carried the play with great acuity and love, and the supporting cast came along for the ride.  The professionalism of the troupe was evident in every scene.  The relationships between young Billy Ray and Norman proved to be moving and they young talented actor who played Billy Ray is a local actor to be watched .

The set design was elaborate for a local theatre creating a vacation home that told the story of the family as well as the words and the actions of the players. There is a saying that the lighting works best when you do not notice it, but this play proved that old adage wrong.  It was clear that the lighting was instrumental in setting mood and tone.

The Backstage Beat recommends that anyone who has the hankering to see professional quality in a comfortable, cozy setting should head out to see On Golden Pond.  It is running from now until September 11, 2011.

MainStage Series: On Golden Pond

MainStage – August 10, 2011 – September 11, 2011

Playwright: Ernest Thompson
Director: Heidi Cline McKerley

Performance times
Sun 8/7 7pm & Tues 8/9 8pm
Tues – Thurs 8pm & Sun 7pm
(No 7 pm performance on Sun 9/11/11)
Fri 8pm & Sun 2:30pm
Sat 8pm
Wed 2:30pm (9/7/11 only)

Ticket pricing
$12 / $12 groups, PREVIEWS:
Sun 8/7 7pm & Tues 8/9 8pm
$24 / $21 groups*, Tues – Thurs 8pm & Sun 7pm
(No 7 pm performance on Sun 9/11/11)
$28 / $25 groups*, Fri 8pm & Sun 2:30pm
$33 / no group discount, Sat 8pm
$20 / $17 groups*, Wed 2:30pm (9/7/11 only)

(*12 or more required for a group
-group discounts NOT available through internet sales)