‘On Golden Pond’: grousing, ignoring, coping

  • By Dale Burrows For The Enterprise
  • Tuesday, February 2, 2010 8:42pm

Usually, the man turning 80 in this time-tested, feel-good look at the so-called “golden years” comes off cute, strange, funny, vulnerable. Here, Scott B. Randall directs him grumbling, mumbling, dawdling and vulnerable but also more on the ball than everybody else. He makes you laugh more with him than at him. It is a switch worth noticing.

The set up is Norman and Ethel Thayer at their vacation home on the lake, New England, 1970’s.

The Thayer’s forty-something daughter, her fiancé and his teenaged son visit. For years, Ethel’s had no luck getting Norman and his daughter to bury the hatchet. The mailman, more attached to the high-school crush he had on the Thayer’s daughter than carrying the torch for her, drops by now and again. The focus is much more aimed at interaction through dialogue than physical action. Acting makes or breaks it. Here, it makes it.

John Klise does Norman Thayer; watchword, slow. Klise walks slow, talks slow, responds slow. He also stops, looks, listens, sees, hears, thinks about and reacts on target, all the time, every time. The man is a picture-perfect portrayal of senior citizenship, values in order, temperament under control; aches, pains and heart condition included.

Cheery, mindful and nobody to push around caps Melanie Calderwood’s Ethel Thayer. “That’s my husband you’re talking about,” Calderwood sets daughter straight when daughter dares run down dad to mom’s face. Daughter shuts up right now. righteous indignation overpowers.

Jennifer Michael’s Chelsea, the daughter, disturbs the parental peace with the chip on her shoulder kids empathize with, adults chastise. Poor me sums it up. Michael’s marvel is that she shows it as it is, baggage and all.

Not the brightest mailman in the world is Charlie, the role. Rick Wright’s version: likable, funny, endearing; good for a smile, good for a laugh. Wright’s a comic highlight.

A kid being all kid is the complete delight Matthew Glazener brings to Billy Ray Jr., son to Chelsea’s fiancé and bosom pal to Norman, the curmudgeon, Thayer. Glazener gives meaning to second childhood. He and Klise hit it off, no problem.

David Bailey, yeoman job as reliable, responsible, no-nonsense fiancé, Billy Ray. Bailey’s presence adds stability.

This is easy, breezy comedy with a little dramatic mix. It is insightful into the waning years, overarching with a kindly, gentle influence. Seniors can get a kick out of it. Those not yet, can reinforce their superiority. Either way, you walk out feeling better about yourself. I did.

Reactions? Comments? E-mail Dale Burrows at entfeatures@heraldnet.com or grayghost7@comcast.net.

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