Theatre Mirror Reviews - "On Golden Pond"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


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entire contents copyright 2000 by Tony Annicone

"On Golden Pond"

Tony Annicone

The Players second show of their 92nd season is the popular comedy "On Golden Pond" which is the love story of an elderly couple in their twilight years. Norman (Sam Babbit) and Ethel (Alma Fontana) return to their summer home ( a gorgeous two story rustic cabin set and one of the best sets I've seen) on Golden Pond in Maine for the 44th year. They celebrate Norman's 80th birhtday with their estranged daughter, Chelsea ( Laurie E. Herbst), her current boyfriend, Bill Ray( Dennis Bouchard) who is a dentist and his tart tongued spunky son, Billy (Brandon DiMatteo). Add Chelsea's high school boyfriend, Charlie ( Jack O'Keefe) now a mailman into the mix and you have the ingredients for a perfectly cast show by veteran director, Ron Eastwood. Ron pays attention to the nuances of each of these characters to bring out the strength in their acting abilities. Besides having a fantastic set, he blends the comedy and pathos of the script to make the show a delight for the audience. Ron's direction makes this show as fresh and new as when it first came out. Splendid work from a wonderful director and his superb cast makes this a must see show.

Sam Babbit is perfect as the 80 year old curmudgeon. His one liners remind one of an elderly Archie Bunker living in Maine. His voice and mannerisms fit this role so well you would think it had been written for him. Underneath the gruffness of his character is a true warmth for his wife, daughter and young Billy. The slang, Norman learns from the teenage boy is very funny as are his interactions with all the other cast members, too. Sam also plays the dramatic scenes very well especially when he forgets where he is while trying to pick strawberries scene and the heart attack scare scene. Alma Fontana is a very strong dramatic actress but she handles the comic side of Ethel very well, too. Her listening to the loons, calling Norman, an old poop and her camp song cheer are some of the lighter ones. Her confrontation scene and the slapping of Chelsea are brillantly played as are the comforting of Norman and the possibility of losing him to death scenes. The warmth between Ethel and young Billy is another scene of Alma's that stands out. Great chemistry between Sam and Alma during this show.

Laurie Herbst, a Jane Fonda look alike is touching as the daughter who never got along with her father. She makes the audience feel the pain she is in so they can empathize with her. The slapping scene is another powerful moment between mother and daughter and Laurie's crying makes the scene even more emotional. The reconciliation in the stage show is done on the phone but her awkwardness in trying to reach her father is poignant when she tries to reach him in person. Laurie also has funny moments doing the cheer with her mother and in meeting her old boyfriend, Charlie scene.

Another powerhouse performance is given by young Brandon DiMatteo as Billy. he is hilarious as the foul mouthed teen who teaches Norman words like bs, cruising for chicks and suck face. He makes the boy into a real person the audience can relate to. He develops a warm and loving relationship with the sharp tongued Norman by reading a book and by going fishing with him. Brandon has a lot of talent for his age and he holds his own in all his scenes with the older actors.

Rounding out the cast are Jack O'Keefe as the scene stealing laughing mailman and Dennis Bouchard as the serious, dentist. Jack makes Charlie the comic relief in the show with his Maine accent and funny line delivery and expressions. Dennis usually a funny comedian plays the serious boyfriend of Chelsea's who asks Norman if he can have illicit sex with her in their home. Only in one scene he makes the most of this character and shows his strength when Bill stands up to Norman winning out in the end.

A word of praise to hard working stage manager, Lydia Mattteson and props mistress, Barbara Green who kept things running smoothly backstage and on the stage. The mood lighting by Ruth Sagan helped light the cabin scenes beautifully. Kudos to everyone on a well done production. Anyone wishing to join this theatre club should call Lydia for information at (401) 273-0590 and tell them Tony sent you.

"On Golden Pond" (till 10 December)
Barker Playhouse, 400 Benefit Street, PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND
1(401) 273-0590

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide