Comedic drama delights audience

Greenwood Little Theatre’s presentation of “On Golden Pond” features laughs, nostalgia and several emotional moments.

The play, which opened its four-performance run on Thursday night, is directed by Forrest Hodge, who previously directed “The Butler Did It” and is known for his acting performances in several recent GLT productions.

“On Golden Pond” is a drama with comedic touches about a retired couple, Ethel and Norman Thayer Jr., spending a 48th year at their summer home on Golden Pond in Maine. This year, their divorced adult daughter, Chelsea, visits, bringing with her a new boyfriend, Bill Ray, and his 13-year-old son, Billy Ray Jr. The play, which was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film in 1981, focuses heavily on themes about aging and family complexities.

The standout stars of the show are John and Cheryl Weiss, a real-life married couple who portray Norman and Ethel.

Norman, approaching 80, has fully accepted his age and limitations, but it also makes him grumpy. Ethel, though, remains perky and pleasant, delighting in simple tasks, such as walking through the woods, watching for the loons or picking strawberries.

Ethel becomes irritated with her husband’s crotchety attitude and talk of looming death, often calling him a “poop,” which later in the play becomes an affectionate nickname for Norman.

The couple’s back-and-forth banter comes off naturally, which allows the audience to become enthralled in the plot.

The Weisses do an excellent job in the first act of laying the foundation of the play and continue to capture the hearts of the audience throughout the show with their portrayal of the longtime married Thayers.

Norman and Ethel’s opposite personalities also set up for comedic dialogue and situations, which the Weisses fully deliver.

Another standout is Brendan Pernell as Billy Ray Jr.

Billy adds a spurt of energy and youth to the Thayers and to the play.

Brendan, just 12 himself, and John Weiss are a well-matched grandson-grandfather duo. The initial standoff between them received roars of laughter from the audience.

The play’s most intense scenes occur with the arrival of the Thayers’ daughter, Chelsea, who is portrayed by Sherrie Smith. Smith gives an emotional performance as a daughter with a chip on her shoulder because of her turbulent relationship with her father.

“On Golden Pond” also features in supporting roles Paul Brown as Bill Ray and Tom Weldon as Charlie the mailman, Chelsea’s onetime boyfriend.

In another real-life family parallel to the casting, Brown and Brendan are father and son.

Brown delivers a hilarious performance as he and Weiss have a “talk” about Chelsea and Bill Ray’s sleeping arrangements.

Weldon is spot-on with Charlie’s unique laugh and his frequent exclamations of “holy macanoli.”

Stacking up against the all-star cast — Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn and Jane Fonda — that made “On Golden Pond” part of American film lore is intimidating, but the GLT cast stands up to the challenge splendidly.

The play contains some adult language. Parental guidance is suggested.

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 Dallasreviews