Splendid ON GOLDEN POND at Forge Theatre

by Neal Newman

Barb Hannevig and Jim Kelsh star in Forge Theatre's ON GOLDEN POND, running in Phoenixville PA through March 17.

Everyone in the full house for the Forge’s opening of ON GOLDEN POND had a wonderful time. Every humorous moment was met with acclaim. Readers familiar with the star heavy gravitas of the Katherine Hepburn or Julie Andrews films may be delighted to discover how hilarious the script really is.

Jim Kelsh as Norman, and Barb Hannevig as Ethel make a splendid comedy team; he with the dry delivery and superb timing, she as a droll perfect foil, who is fully able to access the depth of the later dramatic scenes.

ON GOLDEN POND seems to be a plotless trifle about a husband and wife who are spending their 48th summer together at a cottage in Maine. He is a curmudgeon who covers an inner kindness with biting cynical humor. She gallantly puts up with him. A sample:

Ethel:  They’re like us. Middle-aged.

Norman:  People don’t live to be 150. We’re old.

Through it all, the audience is surprised to discover how profound playwright Ernest Thompson’s comments are on the subjects of aging, marriage, New England vs. Californication, grandchildren and parenting.

When the plot finally gets into gear in Act Two, the couple is left with a thirteen year old boy (Devin Parentice) who becomes the grandchild they never had. More problems develop as their daughter (Pam Taylor) tries to find some relationship with the father she can only call Norman.

Norman:  I didn’t think we were mad. I just thought we didn’t like each other.

Barb Hannevig as Ethel Thayer and Pam Taylor as Chelsea Thayer in a scene from Forge Theatre's ON GOLDEN POND, directed by Greg Morton.

After all the laughter, Kelsh, Hannevig, and Taylor handle the serious moments with skill as does the entire supporting cast, (including Joseph Tomarelli, Rick Goldstein and Alex Tomarelli). All this excellence must also be credited to their director, Greg Morton.

(Personal Disclosure: Over a quarter centry ago, I lost an actor in a difficult role in FOOTLIGHT FRENZY.  A completely unknown to me Jim Kelsh stepped in days before the opening and saved the production.  Our paths have not crossed since then, but I remember a wonderful man and terrific actor.  I guess that’s still true.)

Two years ahead of Norman and Ethel, the Forge is celebrating their fiftieth year of performances.  You can see their latest through March 17.  I’m certainly looking forward to THE HEIRESS and DROOD.

by Ernest Thompson
Directed by Greg Morton
March 2-17, 2012
Forge Theatre
241 First Avenue
Phoenixville, PA

You may also like

Leave a Reply