The 50th Anniversary Golden Season of the Cape Fear Regional Theatre has been a special season. So it seems only fitting that the staff of the theatre chose to end the regular season with a really special production. With the staging of On Golden Pond, they did just that.
If you didn’t make it to the theatre to see this production, you missed the boat. The show, starring William Christopher and Bo Thorp was noth-ing short of magical. Sure, they had a great story, with wickedly witty dialogue, but without the mastery of these two seasoned actors, the show could have fallen flat. But that didn’t hap-pen. From the moment Christopher uttered his first, “Who the hell is this?” to their last exit to say goodbye to the lake, they had the audience, hook, line and sinker.
On Golden Pond tells the story of Norman and Ethel Thayer, a couple in their twilight years, who spend their summers on a quiet Maine Lake known as Golden Pond. The show spans one season on the pond, and deals with the issues of time, familial relationships and the approach of death — all pretty dark stuff. But playwright Ernest Thompson, puts a humorous, yet sentimental spin on the story, which keeps it from being maudlin. Throw in the sharp wit exchanged by the characters and it becomes almost comical.
Actors performing this show must walk a fine line between sentiment and comedy to render the sweetness of the story. Thorp and Christopher had great balance. To play the roles of Norman and Ethel convincingly, there had to be connection between the actors. In the days leading up to the show’s opening, Christopher was worried that the cast would not have the time to dig into the subtle nuances that make the show so special. He didn’t need to worry.
The two have chemistry on stage that usually comes over a long period of time. In this case, I think it comes from the mastery of their craft. Both veteran actors, Thorp and Christopher handled the material gently. They wove the story so convincingly that I felt like I was in their living room, not in the audience. They pulled the sweetness from each moment. You knew them. Watching them on stage, I pictured my own grandparents who traded similar barbs. The words were sharp, but there was always love underneath them.
The four other cast members Liza Vann (playing the Thayer’s daughter, Chelsea), Greg King (Chelsea’s boyfriend, Bill), Jonathan Flom (the mailman) and Sean Thomas (playing Bill’s son) all did a fine job, but quite honestly, Christopher and Thorp stole the show.
In his director’s notes, Tom Quaintance, the artistic director at the Cape Fear Regional Theatre, noted that he had to “pinch” himself to realize it wasn’t a dream to work with such a beautiful script and extraordinary actors like Christopher and Thorp. I understand where he is coming from.
As we left the theatre, I couldn’t help but wish that the sum-mer went on forever, and that we wouldn’t have to say good-bye to Golden Pond.
Photo: On Golden Pond tells the story of Norman and Ethel Thayer, a couple in their twilight years.