VERO BEACH – The play “On Golden Pond” certainly resonated with its audience at a recent night’s performance at The Vero Beach Theatre Guild. With its themes of mortality and family relationships, this play strikes close to the bone.
The story is well-known: the setting, Maine at the start of the summer. Norman and Ethel Thayer are sorting out their summerhouse.
It quickly becomes clear that Norman, who will soon celebrate his 80th birthday, is experiencing memory loss and confusion. Norman (John Houx) a classic curmudgeon, appears irritated by pretty much everything in life.
A lot is happening just beneath the surface actions of this elderly couple, settling into the house they’ve shared for decades.
In their comings and goings, in and out of the three doors onstage and their ongoing conversation, we see the chemistry of a long, long marriage and learn the essentials of their shared history.
Lo and behold, who is coming to visit from California, but daughter Chelsea (Colleen Brennan), her new boyfriend Billy Ray (Ben Earman) and Billy Ray Jr. (Kem “K.J.” Johnson).
Their arrival brings about the possibility of change for old Norman. When Chelsea and Billy Ray continue on their way to Europe, Billy Ray Jr. spends a month with Ethel and Norman.
Beautifully played by Johnson, this 15-year-old boy is not impressed by much of anything, stands round-shouldered, and uses the epitaph of B.S. often.
The next thing we know, Billy Jr. and Norman have become fast friends and avid fishermen.
Both Houx and Frazer ably portray Norman’s renewed interest in life and what this means to Ethel.
The two are onstage throughout the play and their roles are certainly believable as the couple who knows each other so very well.
In her Director’s Notes, director Julia Glatfelt, says that “On Golden Pond” has long been on her wish list of plays to direct.
“It’s amazing to realize that Ernest Thompson was only 29 when he wrote this award-winning play,” writes Glatfelt.
She notes that she “never tires of exploring how to stage such a beautifully written story.”
Glatfelt certainly explores the many layers of this play’s meanings from the perspective of a single set: the interior of the house looking out onto Golden Pond.
“On Golden Pond” at a glance
Dates: Now through Jan. 23
Tickets: (772) 562-8300