Volume 94, Issue 81
Thursday, February 15, 2001
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Kramer is play's only saving grace
Photo by James Hocking
ALL OF THE VIAGRA IN THE WORLD COULDN'T HELP YOU, EARL! Cast members from On Golden Pond laugh about their travails in the Grand Theatre's latest production, playing now through Feb. 25.
On Golden Pond
Starring: Ken Kramer, Lorna Wilson, Peggy Coffey
Directed By: Janet Amos
By Rebecca Morier
If you're looking for love, one thing is for certain you'll find it On Golden Pond.
Based on the 1981 film that earned a slew of Academy Award nominations, including best picture, On Golden Pond is a play ultimately about love not just the transient romantic kind and is currently showing at The Grand Theatre until Feb. 25.
Set in present day New England, the story tells the tale of Norman Thayer Jr. (Ken Kramer), a crabby old man who, despite his weak heart and faltering memory, still shows off his keen and biting wit. With his gracious and devoted wife, Ethel (Lorna Wilson), they return to their cottage on the quaint Golden Pond for a summer unlike their past 48 ones together.
With Ethel's coaxing, their daughter Chelsea (Peggy Coffey) hesitantly joins them to celebrate Norman's 80th birthday, bringing with her Bill, her new boyfriend and Billy, his 13-year-old son. Some unexpected events unfold as the summer progresses, which lead to Norman being shaken out of his pessimistic attitude and uncovering a renewed spirit of joy and youth in his life.
In its simultaneous simplicity and complexity, the set reflects the plot. Although the Thayer living room set does not significantly change throughout the play, it is nevertheless elaborate enough to give the audience the feeling that the lake is just beyond the windows.
That sense of realism is further sustained by Kramer's stunning performance. As the less-than-chipper old man, Kramer injects a richness to Norman's character, adding subtleties in his gestures and speech that reveal the depth and humour of the otherwise world-weary man.
Also impressive is Wilson as Norman's wife, Ethel. Her amiability and faithfulness resound clearly and speak of Ethel and Norman's loving relationship. As the long-time mailman Charlie, Robert King acts as the necessary comic figure who also stands for the simple Northeastern American values and lifestyle that the play inevitably calls into question.
Despite the ease with which most of the cast members deliver their lines and etch their characters into the "reality" of the story, Coffey disturbs the flow of the play. Her delivery seems forced and awkward, which contrasts with the other cast members onstage.
Furthermore, her role as the never-good-enough-for-dad daughter is problematic, but at the same time, crucial to the story. Part of Norman's transition takes place when he puts the grievances between him and his daughter aside. Their precarious relationship is not really made clear in the first act, yet it is dramatized and made the focal crisis in the second act.
Since there is little action in the storyline, this insufficient plot development is the central problem, especially because acting is so crucial in this type of play. While the laughter that the clever dialogue often invokes is genuine, it is also sparse and therefore not enough to mitigate the play's awkward moments.
Regardless, the narrative poignantly probes the lives of seemingly simple people to reveal the depths of memory and their helpless surrender to the passage of time. Although love certainly resides On Golden Pond in its many complex forms, the play falters in its ability to really translate that to the audience.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000