Thursday, May 17, 2012

"On Golden Pond" at Midvale Main Street Theatre

Some of the most pleasant summers I’ve ever experienced were in Maine and there was nothing like watching Midvale Main Street Theatre’s production of “On Golden Pond” to capture those memories so perfectly, right down to the black fly references. If anyone can’t wait to take a summer trip to a lake house, I highly recommend making your way to Midvale for one or more of the five remaining performances on May 18, 19, 24, 25 and 26 at 7:00 PM. You early birds can catch a 2:00 PM matinee on Saturday May 19.
I’ve been attending productions at Midvale since 2010. The first was “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” which featured “On Golden Pond” director Eve Speer as Nurse Ratched and E. Timothy Schomburg as the unassuming Mr. Martini. I was very pleased to see Tim taking on the much more vociferous role of Norman Thayer Jr. and cracked up along with the rest of the audience at his take on the crotchety character. I also found myself very moved at times during those quiet moments where the stage is shared by just himself and Mary Scott Mason playing the role of his wife Ethel where Norman’s character reveals his more vulnerable side to the one person he trusts more than any other and who understands him best.

I felt at times that the story seems told more from Ethel’s point of view than anyone else’s; even when she wasn’t on stage. Seeing Norman alone with his wife offers context to the character that the other members of the family aren’t privy to, most importantly Norman and Ethel’s daughter Chelsea, played by Jennifer Mason and her fiance Bill—played by Marc Reading who last graced Midvale’s stage as prosecuting attorney Horace Gilmer in “To Kill a Mockingbird” also directed by Speer. Bill has only Chelsea’s biased recollections to prepare him to meet his future father-in-law.
Austin Heaton play’s Billy Ray, Bill’s son and namesake. He comes across as a young Norman, cracking wise and teasing like the elder Thayer, which probably explains why the two characters seem to get along so well.
Joe Dutson gives a promising first performance as Charlie, the mailman, who seems to be carrying a torch for Chelsea and takes losing her to Bill with good humor and an unusual laugh.
“On Golden Pond” is a wonderful play about family with all of the stress and complications that can be expected. It’s also a story of forgiveness and how it is possible to mend strained relationships after many years and even later in life, whether on the threshold of middle age or at the extreme end of it.