Last Friday night, the Toronto community theatre season kicked off in the heart of Scarborough Village with Scarborough Players’ production of  On Golden Pond, a 1979 play written by then 28 year old Ernest Thompson, which two years later went on to become a feature film starring Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda.

I cannot even imagine how annoying it must be for Kerrie Lamb, one of Toronto’s strongest female performers, to witness the glory and accolades and celebrity worship happening in Yorkville right now at the Toronto International Film Festival when she and all of the other hardworking, dedicated actors and volunteers worked their butts off this past Summer to make this show happen! It certainly was an intimate crowd when I saw the play on Saturday night, but the audience loved it and it felt so cozy and warm spending my Saturday night safe inside the Scarborough Village Theatre, amongst familiar faces, hot coffee with homemade cookies at the concession stand, and people who genuinely just want to entertain and create.

Now about On Golden Pond: I’ve never cared for the story for reasons I’ll get into later. I’ve seen the film and watched the production starring Hal Linden (TV’s Barney Miller).

Chris Hardess and Katherine Tomlinson played their roles of elderly couple Norman and Ethel brilliantly. In fact I really do believe Hardess outdid even Henry Fonda in the original film because unlike Fonda, Hardess really made me dislike the character of Norman. Tomlinson played his dedicated and much more upbeat wife in such a breezy, natural way, that if I were to see either of these two actors out in public with their ACTUAL spouses it would probably break my heart. I really believed that these two were hitting the 50 year mark on their marriage!

Kudos to Greg Nowlan for having to recreate the classically awkward and out of left field scene where he, as Bill Ray, privately asks Norman if he can sleep in the same room with his daughter Chelsea during their visit to the cottage at Golden Pond. He actually somewhat alludes to the fact that there will be coitus taking place and it was just incredibly weird. I went back and re-watched this same scene between Dabney Coleman and Henry Fonda in the original film for reference and indeed, the scene was just as creepy and out of place back then as it is now.

Will van der Zyl really transformed himself into Charlie, the hapless local mailman and ex teenage flame of Chelsea (Kerrie Lamb). I must admit, the contrast between the sharp tongued and self sufficient Chelsea and the velcro shoe wearing, dopey Charlie made it very difficult to believe the two dated for 12 years. I know what Will is really like and he is no Barney Fife!

And last but not least I give my extreme thanks to Fraser Schaffer for entertaining us as Billy Ray Jr. At that age, remembering lines, getting over nerves, and solid acting can be overwhleming but Fraser came off like a professional who’s been doing this for years! Hopefully Degrassi will still be airing when Fraser is old enough to audition for the show! I could see him playing a popular jock type character!

The crewmembers did a fantastic job recreating the famous set for this play. The sound effects were alright but near the beginning of the play when Ethel first marvels over the loons, I would have loved to have heard the sound of a Loon calling ( although this sound effect was used often later in the play).

Call of the Loon

 

In terms of the storyline. I feel the real victim in this entire scenario is Chelsea. Chelsea is constantly being told by her mother that she has a “chip on her shoulder” and is constantly treated like a stranger by her emotionally dare I say somewhat “abusive” father. In the end, I wasn’t satisfied with the reconciliation between Chelsea and her parents. Her father neglected her emotionally for her entire life and he was only able to loosen up and show slight affection for Chelsea after Billy Ray Jr. came to visit for the Summer and Norman was finally able to have “the son he always wanted”. There was a very interesting critical analysis of this play written in 1982 and I highly recommend reading it below:

               https://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC27folder/GoldenPond.html

 

Details: On Golden Pond runs until September 23. Regular tickets are $24. For more information please go to the Box Office page