I first thought of reviving “On Golden Pond” by Earnest Thompson during the time that Women In Theatre were desperately attempting to deal with all the costumes, lighting equipment, properties, archives and etceteras that had to be lodged somewhere when Coconut Marketplace began renovations and WIT’s little theatre, Wit’s End, was dispossessed.
I was packing play scripts into box after box, loathe, I have to say, to throw out any which documented the history of Women In Theatre over the more than 10 years. There were poignant reminders of past production and their successes, misadventures, friendships, and also some plays that we had thought we might someday attempt. And there it was: just one green booklet amongst so many, but it caught my eye.
Here was a play that WIT had never produced despite its enormous popularity. A play that, even in straitened circumstances, we could take “on the road” and with a strong script and a strong cast, we would once more make an audience laugh and sigh and remember — and see that Women In Theatre is still in show business!
And so, Arnold Meister — well known on Kauai for his distinguished contributions to music and the theatre; Sandi O’Shaughnessy, beloved and remembered for her many fine performances, Steve Landis and Romey Curtis, refugees from the theatres of California and the U.K, and Luke Reynolds, a drama student from Island School, will revive one of the standards of American drama, a human comedy that is always fresh, funny and faithful to the truth.
“On Golden Pond” will never be relegated to the musty top shelves where forgotten plays go to molder out their existence. It remains our favorite because it so skillfully uses humor to reveal — rather than conceal — the sinews of a family. How they can be stretched but never snapped, bearing the weight of misunderstandings and neediness and lasting a lifetime.
This is the love story of Ethel and Norman Thayer, who are returning to their summer home on Golden Pond for the 48th year. He is a retired professor with heart palpitations and a failing memory — but still tart-tongued and engaged with life. Ethel is the perfect foil for Norman: a happy soul, firm enough to deal with her husband’s vagaries. They are visited by their only child, a divorced daughter, and her new boyfriend; they leave his 14-year-old son with the elderly couple. The boy quickly fits into life on Golden Pond and Norman revels in teaching him to fish, and while he introduces young Billy to the classics, Billy introduces him to teenage mores.
In the final moments of the play, Norman and Ethel are brought even closer together by the incident of a mild heart attack. Time, they know, is now against them, but the years have been good ones, and, perhaps another summer on Golden Pond still awaits.
Generations of theatre goers have laughed uproariously at cantankerous Norman and ruefully recognized their own families in the Thayers, as they join them for a summer stay on the lake. Here is a sense of how moments of time can seem to pass slowly day by day, but also speed faster than counting, gone before we can grasp all their sweetness.
See the play and seize the moment.
“On Golden Pond” will be performed as a dramatic reading at The Church of the Pacific on May 15, 16 and 17 – Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 4 p.m. Tickets are available through www.brownpapertickets.com at $12; or $15 at the door.