Recognizable Characters Perfectly Captured In 'On Golden Pond'

By: Amy Tagliaferri

Topics: Local Theater

Paul Widegren and Wil Moser in “On Golden Pond” at Cape Cod Theatre Company, Home of the Harwich Junior Theatre. DELANE O'CONNOR PHOTO

An old man enters a room that clearly overlooks a beautiful pond, he putters and mutters as he maneuvers around the sheet-covered furniture. There’s a knock at the door, and it startles him. “Who’s there?”

“It’s me, you old poop!” yells the voice behind the door.

It’s Ethel Thayer, and the old man is Norman, her husband, a man only she can love. Their only daughter, Chelsea has had trouble loving him and has stayed away from them and Golden Pond for quite a few years now. Other than that quarrel, their lives have been a seamless rotation of summers on the pond. Forty-eight years of talking to the loons, late night skinny dips, fishing for dinner and batting at mosquitoes and black flies. Then one summer after eight long years, Chelsea came home to Golden Pond and everything changed, or did it?

The Cape Cod Theatre Company, home of Harwich Junior Theatre’s production of “On Golden Pond” is just delightful. It’s a fabulous, flawless production of Ernest Thompson’s play. Director Susan Kosoff respects the power of these familiar, recognizable characters and it shows. The actors never seem like they’re acting; one feels like we are just looking through the window watching Ethel and Norman’s love for each other and their interactions with others. And by framing the actors with a complex, detailed set that looks just like the inside of a summer waterfront home, it emphasizes the sincerity of their performances and the script even more so. You feel like you know these people, and have met them before.

Paul Widegren as Norman is a hoot. Welcome back! Widegren spent a couple years in Hollywood pursuing a film career. He’s fantastic as Norman, nailing the character’s brass sarcasm and his heavily-camouflaged kind nature (a kindness only Ethel perceives). Jane Staab’s Ethel finds the happy medium between sweetness and strength. The actor conveys Ethel’s love for grumpy Norman with a simple touch or a glance; a multifaceted performance delivered with minimalism. Jade Schuyler as Chelsea interacts with each parent very effectively; her joy at seeing her mom and the way she reverts to a whining child about her dad is portrayed perfectly. How will a teenager change the dynamics here?

Wil Moser is great as the kid with an attitude thrust upon Norman and Ethel for a summer. Billy’s father is Chelsea’s new boyfriend. David C. Wallace is Billy Senior. Wallace’s scene with Norman is a classic, and neither actor disappoints here. Rounding out the cast is Paul Schuyler as Charlie the mailman. Charlie delivers the mail daily via a boat, and has carried a torch for Chelsea for decades. His portrayal keeps pace with everyone else in this show with its genuineness and sincerity.

The set and lighting design of James P. Byrne is fabulous. You’ll want to move right in to the cottage portrayed on the CCTC/HJT stage with its lavish stone fireplace and magnificent bay window overlooking the pond. The theater’s technical director, Matthew Kohler, and company did a fantastic job with construction of this set. J Hagenbuckle’s sound design of the lake-side noise of the loons and a boat’s engine fading away may make you want to swat at a mosquito or two. Completing the picture is the costumes designed by Melissa Miller and Lisa Simpson. The play is set in the 1970s and the many props were right on. Kudos to Marybeth Travis and her “wild goose chasing skills” for this task which was either a “properties mistress’s” nightmare or dream. Kristen Morale, stage manager/light board operator, Rachel Simmons, sound board and crew member Emily Kosoff all deserve a mention for their contributions to the smooth execution of each time sequence on the set.

This lovely show is a little over two hours long with a short intermission. What a perfect way to end the summer season on Cape Cod with a little bit of summer on Golden Pond.