On Golden Pond | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

On Golden Pond 

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On Golden Pond, Drury Lane Oakbrook. Ernest Thompson's 1978 play is set in the comfortable but not sumptuous Maine summer home of Norman and Ethel Thayer. Chelsea, their 42-year-old daughter, has spent years distancing herself from her irascible father. Now she's returned to Golden Pond with her dentist fiance and his 13-year-old son, ostensibly to celebrate Norman's 80th birthday. But she asks Ethel and a reluctant Norman to look after the boy while the lovebirds travel to Europe. Billy--played by Jacob Zachar as a somewhat withdrawn child of divorce--thrives on the bombastic Norman's attention, and the curmudgeon and the teenager bond to a degree that father and daughter never approached. As a result Chelsea, hurt and a bit envious, awkwardly tries to repair her relationship with her dad.

In the 1981 film adaptation, Henry Fonda played Norman as a frightened, once powerful lion, raging against fragility and impotence in the face of mental and physical decline. Katharine Hepburn as Ethel was his spunky yet devoted Valkyrie. In Ray Frewen's production, Tony Mockus is fully in command as Norman, but this patriarch is less a tortured Lear than a guy who can't stand for anyone else to be the center of attention. Ann Whitney's Ethel is a firm but loving everymom.

It is a warm production, comfortably midwestern notwithstanding the Yankee setting. This pond, it seems, isn't far from Lake Woebegone. We can't help but bask in its golden glow.


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