Little Theatre to present drama about family, aging

Greenwood Little Theatre is gearing up to present the award-winning drama “On Golden Pond.”

Director, Forrest Hodge

Director, Forrest Hodge

“It’s going to be a good, quality production, and I am very, very proud of the job that the cast has done,” said the play’s director, Forrest Hodge, during a recent rehearsal.

“On Golden Pond” will debut at the W.M. Whittington Jr. Playhouse on Thursday evening and run throughout the weekend.

The plot of the show focuses on aging couple Ethel and Norman Thayer, played by real-life husband and wife John and Cheryl Weiss, who spend each summer at a lake called Golden Pond in Maine.

The story begins with the couple returning for their 48th year to their summer house on Golden Pond.

“Norman is in failing health, and he is starting to lose his memory,” said Hodge. “He is 10 years older than Ethel. She is 69, and he is 79. It starts out with them dealing with life and aging. Norman is preoccupied with death, while Ethel is full of life and delights in the tiniest things.”

Then, the couple’s daughter, Chelsea, played by Sherrie Smith, stops by the with her fiance Billy Ray, played by Paul Brown, and his son Billy Ray Jr., played by Brendan Pernell. Chelsea and Billy Ray then go off to Europe for vacation, leaving Billy Ray Jr. behind with Ethel and Norman for the summer.

“Billy Ray Jr. kind of renews their passion for life,” said Hodge. “He brings out a side of Norman that Chelsea had always wanted to, but she was the daughter who could never live up to Norman’s expectations.”

The play also explores familial relationships, particularly the rift between the father and daughter.

“One of the things that I love the most about the show is Norman’s MO is always bullying people and shutting them down. Then, here comes this 13-year-old kid who matches wits with him right off, and Norman takes an instant liking to him,” said Hodge. “Norman softens, and Billy inadvertently brings Chelsea and her father back together.”

Also a love story about a couple in the twilight years of a long marriage, a constant theme throughout the play, Hodge said, is “dealing with your own mortality and aging.”

Also starring in the Little Theatre production will be Tom Weldon as Charlie, a mailman who formerly dated Chelsea.

“On Golden Pond” is a 1979 play written by Ernest Thompson. Frances Sternhagen won a Tony Award for best actress for her role as Ethel Thayer.

In 1981, the play was adapted into a film of the same name. The movie starred Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn and Jane Fonda. Henry Fonda and Hepburn each won an Academy Award, and Thompson won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. “On Golden Pond” received a total of seven Oscar nominations.

“I think it’ll be nostalgic for a lot of people who saw the movie when it first came out,” said Hodge.

“On Golden Pond” has also appeared once before on the stage at the playhouse in 1988.

Hodge said that he hopes the upcoming production will make the members of the ’88 cast and crew proud.

“It’s been an incredibly fun time doing this,” he said.

This is the second Little Theatre production Hodge has directed. Last season, he directed the comedy “The Butler Did It.”

“The cast has made it extremely easy. They have been wonderful,” he said. “The amount of detail work that they have done on their characters blows me away.”

“On Golden Pond” contains some adult language. Parental guidance is suggested for children under 13.

To purchase tickets, season memberships or make seat reservations, visit www.greenwoodlittletheatre.com or call 947-1075. Tickets may be purchased at the door for $15 for adults and $10 for those who are under 21.

Alicia Dallas