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On Golden Pond

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On Golden Pond is probably best remembered as the title of the 1981 film that earned Henry Fonda his first and only Oscar for Best Actor. In that same year, On Golden Pond also won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. The recipient of that honor was Earnest Thompson who, only a couple of years before, had scripted Pond as a stage play.

Now, On Golden Pond—a tender, playful, and somewhat melancholy look at love, longevity, and the frayed edges of a complicated lifetime—is getting a rare and stalwart staging at Burbank’s Colony Theatre, through August 28. Under Cameron Watson’s direction we get playwright Thompson’s message: Some among us are likely to view dotage as a one-way entrance into death’s waiting room.

In the case of Norman Thayer, Jr.—who’s one-the-brink of turning 80 years-old—he’s single-minded in his conviction that this will be, not only his final summer at the Thayer estate on Golden Pond in Maine, but also his last year amidst the living. Much to the annoyance of Ethel, Norman’s 69 year-old wife, Norman continues to joke about his impending demise.

When one of Ethel’s girlhood dolls falls from the mantle above the cozy fireplace (a wonderfully rustic scenic design by John Iacovelli), Norman suggests that it was the old toy’s attempt to commit suicide. He then goes on to remark that maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad way to go after all—just one quick leap from the ledge into the fire, death and cremation simultaneously. Ethel finds Norman’s musings less then, um, amusing.

In two-acts, with five scenes (three scenes in act-one; two scenes in act-two), and a two-hour and fifteen minute running time, we get a fly-on-the-wall perspective of an authentic family dynamic. Norman—played with an endearing irascibility by Hal Linden—is a clever curmudgeon. At one point Ethel (incarnated with high affect, but at too low a volume by Christina Pickles) tells Norman that he’s the “sweetest man in the world, and only I know it.”

When Norman and Ethel’s estranged 40 year-old daughter, Chelsea (a convincing Monette Magrath) comes calling at the Thayer’s lakeside cottage, she has her new fiancé in tow. His name is Dr. Bill Ray, and he’s a dentist (Jonathan Stewart in a flawless characterization). With them is Bill’s teenage son, Billy (marvelously interpreted by Nicholas Podany). Also, well included in this ensemble is Jerry Kernion in a perfectly rendered performance as the busy-bodied mail carrier, Charlie Martin.

On Golden Pond, the play, may be a less emotionally resonant examination of geriatric issues—physical decline and dementia, specifically—than the movie that it spawned some thirty years ago. It, nevertheless, is a show worth attending, if only to experience these professional actors tackle these demanding roles, and to witness (literally) sky-high production values (kudos to lighting designer Jared A. Sayeg, costumer Terri A. Lewis, sound designer Rebecca Kessin, and also to Ryan Shore for his subtle, but sweeping original music score).

On Golden Pond continues at the Colony Theatre—555 North Third Street, Burbank—through August 28. Show times are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinees are at 3 p.m. on Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays For reservations, dial (818) 558 – 7000. For online ticketing and further information, visit www.ColonyTheatre.org.

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.