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“On Golden Pond” Brings Laughter and Tears to Broadway Vista Playhouse

By   /  February 6, 2017  /  No Comments

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TR Robertson

TR Robertson….The newest play at Broadway Vista beginning its 13th season, “On Golden Pond”, will touch everyone that sees the production. The play, written by Ernest Thompson in 1979, tells the simple story of Ethel and Norman Thayer, who return to their summer cabin by the Lake Golden Pond, to enjoy another summer in the woods. This time, their return will be interrupted by their only child, a middle aged daughter, Chelsea, who is on the way to Europe with fiancé Bill Ray, and planning on asking her mom and dad to watch Bill’s son, Billy Ray Jr., while they are gone. Chelsea has been asked to visit from California as Norman will be celebrating his 80th birthday.  Chelsea has an estranged, semi-turbulent, distant relationship with her aging father, who she has not been around for some time. She knows Norman, her father who she refers to as Norman, is beginning to suffer some memory loss to go along with a rather cantankerous, sometimes caustic attitude and she doesn’t know how to reach out to him. The only person who can “handle” him is his wife, Ethel, who he depends on at all times, even if he doesn’t want to admit it. With this as the background, those in the audience will see unfolding before them a two hour story that spans several months one summer, and you will go through a range of emotions, both on stage and personally for many attending the production who have or have had aging parents.

Photos by Broadway Vista

Ethel (Marilyn Wolfe) remembering the past with daughter Chelsea (Holly MacDonald)

The actors and actresses for this production are all veterans of Broadway Vista and many other stages in San Diego County, with the exception of Rancho Bernardo High School freshman Reese Castin, who is making his first appearance at Broadway Vista as Billy Ray Jr. Playing Norman Thayer is Lou Slocum. Slocum presents an admirable, touching performance as the aging Norman, a retired English Literature professor from the University of Pennsylvania, showing the beginning stages of dementia, forgetfulness, the highs and lows of emotion, and fear of being alone. You find yourself laughing with Norman, getting a little mad at Norman for his behavior and feeling sorry for Norman. The play opens with a humorous scene involving Norman checking out the house phone connection with a confused phone operator. Marilyn Wolfe plays Norman’s wife, Ethel. Ms. Wolfe has played in numerous roles at the Broadway Vista and Avo Playhouse. Her role as Norman’s wife brings out the true saint this woman must be to put up with Norman. She portrays the perfect attitude that must be displayed with a man like Norman, not giving in, staying in control and rising to the challenges Norman brings to the table. In one scene Norman peruses the newspaper for jobs he will never apply for, is angered with the Yankees and constantly speaks of dying and getting old, which Ethel is becoming more and more frustrated with. He remarks to her concerning his age, “That’s what happens if you live long enough, you get old, but it’s better than the alternative”.

The cast – L-R – Reese Castin (Billy Ray Jr.), Torre Younghans (Bill Ray), Douglas Davis (Charlie the Mailman), seated – Marilyn Wolfe (Ethel Thayer), Lou Slocum (Norman thayer) and Holly MacDonald (Chelsea Thayer)

Playing daughter Chelsea is Holly MacDonald, returning to Broadway Vista after a year and a half absence. She brings out the emotional, tense relationship she and Norman have and the tender relationship she and her mother have. In Act II, as she and Norman try to speak with one another, Chelsea asks Norman why they are always mad at one another, which Norman replies, “I didn’t realize we were mad, I thought we just didn’t like each other”.  And later she replies, “I just want to be your friend”. Back and forth they go trying to close the emotional gap they have shared. Playing Chelsea’s husband is Torre Younghans, Holly MacDonald’s real life husband. Younghans most recently was in Broadway Vista’s “A Nice Family Christmas”. As fiancé Bill Ray, he brings a tense, nervous, jittery character to the stage as he tries to meet Norman for the first time and deal with Norman’s biting remarks and “standoffish” behavior. Reese Castin steps onto the Broadway Vista stage for the first time and shows great stage presence as the young 13 year old, Billy Ray Jr., who can both understand, joke and put up with Norman. When he first meets Norman he remarks about how old Norman is to which Norman replies, BR – “So I heard you turned 80 today.”  Norman – “Is that what you heard?”  BR – “Yeah. Man, that’s really old.”  Norman – “You should meet my father.”  BR – “Your father is still alive?”  Norman – “No, but you should meet him”. Billy Ray is able to get Norman out of the cabin and back on the lake to fish, like he used to do long ago with Chelsea. Ethel remarks how good Billy Ray was for Norman. Playing Charlie the Mailman is Broadway Vista co-owner and veteran actor, Douglas Davis. Charlie has pined for Chelsea since he first saw her at the girl’s camp across the lake when she was a youngster and he was a young man. Charlie loves spending time in the Thayer cabin, having coffee and cookies and sharing stories with Ethel. He is also capable of a give and take relationship with Norman and seems determined to not let Norman get the best of him. Davis brings humor to Charlie’s character as he is also the lake gossip and spins tales of anyone and everyone who lives around the lake and shows his excitement with a catchy “Holy Macanole”.

Charlie, Ethel and Chelsea talk about the past.

“On Golden Pond” opened on Broadway on February 28, 1979, at the New Apollo Theatre and ran for 126 performances before moving to the Century Theatre in September of 1979 for an additional 256 performances. The play won a 1979 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for Frances Sternhagen as Ethel. The continued success of “On Golden Pond” came from its movie screen release starring Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn and Jane Fonda, Henry Fonda’s daughter. Their performance in the 1981 movie earned 10 Academy Award nominations and a Golden Globe and Best Actor Academy Award for Henry Fonda, and an Academy Award for Katherine Hepburn.  Jane Fonda had purchased the rights to the movie for her father, just keeping James Stewart from playing the role of Norman. In 2001, CBS televised a live T.V. adaptation of “On Golden Pond” with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plumber in the lead roles. The play also won a 2005 Tony for Best Revival of a Play.

This is definitely a play millennials will easily identify with and understand, if they still have aging parents or have had to deal with or be around aging parents. But, whether you fall into that category or not, this is a play with great performances by a wonderful cast, another example of a quality theatre experience from the intimate 49 seat Broadway Vista Theatre. Grab dinner in Downtown Historic Vista and take in a great performance. “On Golden Pond” will run until February 19th. Make sure you take part in the ever entertaining Opportunity Drawing featured at each performance. Prizes the night we attended included a bag of Belly Flops, a 3 foot shoe horn, a snap together fruit bowl, a tackle box and a Clever Cracker. Broadway Vista is located at 340 East Broadway. Tickets can be purchased at www.broadwayvista.com or call 760-806-7905. Next up for Broadway Vista, beginning of March 3rd, will be “Honky Tonk Laundry” starring Bets Malone and Misty Cotton in this funny, song filled comedy.

Vista’s Broadway Theater – 340 East Broadway Vista, California  92084
BOX OFFICE:  (760) 806-7905 – EMAIL:  Broadwayvista@gmail.com

 

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