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LA Theater Review

On Golden Pond

On Golden Pond
Photo Source: Michael Lamont
In the 48th summer of trips to their lake cottage on Golden Pond in Maine, Norman Thayer Jr. (Hal Linden) and his wife, Ethel (Christina Pickles), are facing the inevitability of aging and changes to their lives. Acerbic and crusty, Norman is turning 80 and beginning to suffer memory loss, a fact that is disturbing Ethel, prompting her to ensure that their only daughter, Chelsea (Monette Magrath), shows up for her father's birthday. Previously divorced, Chelsea arrives with new fiancé Bill (Jonathan Stewart) and his 13-year-old son, Billy (Nicholas Podany). It is clear from the outset that she and her father have a conflicted relationship. Ethel persuades Norman to let Billy stay for a month, giving Chelsea and Bill time alone in Europe to ripen their romance. This decision paves the way for Norman's renewed enthusiasm for life.

Director Cameron Watson sensitively handles the comedic and melancholic aspects of the story in equal measure. It is, however, Linden and Pickles' maturity as actors that elevates the play from soap opera to a realistic and strongly resonant depiction of the lives of these characters.

Linden is superb, as he captures the strength and frailty of this intelligent man facing his future. Pickles, too, subtly imbues Ethel with nuanced concern and optimism. Podany, Stewart, and Magrath deliver excellent performances in their secondary but essential roles as foils for Norman and Ethel's character exposition. Supporting player Jerry Kernion turns a humorous role as slightly dim Charlie, the Thayers' mailman, into a show-stealing, touching portrait of Chelsea's former teen boyfriend.

John Iacovelli's meticulously designed summer cottage, with properties design and set dressing by MacAndMe, is exceptional. Also creating lovely ambient lighting, including watery shadows during scene breaks, is Jared A. Sayeg's masterful design.

This production of Ernest Thompson's durable audience pleaser is lovely and poignant, but it has plenty of unexpected humor to counter the thematic end-of-life issues. The ensemble and Watson are winners.

Presented by and at the Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank. July 30–Aug. 28. Thu.–Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (818) 555-7000, ext. 15.

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