Theatre Mirror Reviews - "On Golden Pond"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2002 by Tony Annicone

"On Golden Pond"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The husband and wife acting couple, Bucky Walsh and Nikki Bruno, are celebrating their 50th year of performing together in Newport Playhouse's current production of "On Golden Pond". This is the third time, they have performed this show at the playhouse with the first in 1984 and the second in 1991. "On Golden Pond" is the love story of 80 year old Norman Thayer and his wife, Ethel who are returning to their summer home for their 48th year. The plot also revolves around their 42 year old daughter, her dentist, fiancee, his smart mouth son and the daughter's former boyfriend from high school, now the mailman. Bucky not only stars in this show but directs it so that all the actors give a finely honed performance. It delights the audiences so much leading to a spontaneous standing ovation at the close of the show.

Bucky plays the role of the lovable curmudgeon brilliantly. He uses various facial expressions and makes all the one liners count by playing up the humorous side of this character. Standout moments include the slang learning scene with Billy and the illict sex talk scene with Bill. Bucky's interactions with the rest of the cast are done with ease, showcasing him in one of his best roles. As the director, he guides the rest of the cast with a firm hand, getting some outstanding acting from them, too. Bucky uses the music from the movie during the scene changes and with the help of stage manager, Kate Radin and props mistress, Sandi Nicastro, makes the show flow smoothly along. (The rustic cabin set in Maine by Gene Dufault adds a delightful touch to this show.) His wife, Nikki is a multifaceted actress. She handles the many humorous moments wonderfully but she really shines in the role of the loving and devoted wife during the dramatic times. The last scene where Ethel thinks Norman, her old poop, is really dying, is magnificent. Nikki brings you to tears at her touching and heartfelt delivery of her dialogue. Her relationships with Chelsea, her daughter, Billy and Charlie, the mailman are handled beautifully, too. This is a definite must see show so you can observe this husband and wife team acting splendidly in a very funny, yet heart warming show.

The couple's estranged daughter is played by Kim Stamoulis who returns to the playhouse after a 4 year hiatus. She juggles the emotions of a daughter who comes to grips with a cold distant father who always wanted a son but finally accepts her at this late moment in his life. Kim handles the role very well and shows the warm side of her character in the scenes with her mother, having a comic moment when mother and daughter sing the old camp song. The smart mouth youth, Billy is played by 12 year old David Ruhfel. He has some comic moments in his bullshiting segment where he teaches Norman current day slang and in the fishing scene where he is loaded down with the fishing gear. David is a talented boy who started acting at the playhouse 4 years ago in "The Nerd".

Another member of this cast is Brian Lamothe who plays Charlie, the always laughing, slightly befuddled mailman who still has a crush on Chelsea. The president of Newport Playhouse, Jonathan Perry plays Bill, the dentist. Having first seen Jonathan perform at the age of 17 as Barnaby in "Hello, Dolly", it is gratifying to see him grow into this mature role of a 45 year man who stands up to the barbs Norman flings at him. The illict sex scene dialogue and his fright at a huge bear living in the woods of Maine are Jonathan's funny moments in this show. (Jonathan stepped into this role 5 days before opening due to the tragic car crash death of Tee Harris. This show is dedicated to his memory and as the program says, "There is another star in Heaven".)

So for a fun filled night of dinner, show and after show patriotic cabaret, be sure to catch, Matt Siravo's, "On Golden Pond". Tell them Tony sent you.

"On Golden Pond" (till 29 June)
THE NEWPORT PLAYHOUSE
104 Connell Highway, NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND
1 (401) 848-7529

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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