ON GOLDEN PONDby Ernest Thompson
Richardson Theatre Centre
Directed by – Rachael Lindley
Set Design – Charles A. Alexander
Sound Design – Richard Stephens, Sr.
Props Design – Joan Leonard
Costumes – Rachael Lindley, Cast, Crew
Stage Manager – Joan Leonard
Budd Mahan – Norman Thayer
Karen Jordan – Ethel Thayer
Steve Niksich – Charlie Martin
Leigh Wyatt Moore – Chelsea Thayer
Riley Niksich – Billy
Eddy Herring – Bill Ray
Reviewed Performance: 1/22/2016
Reviewed by Carol M. Rice, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Rachael Lindley’s cast does a fine job of making us forget the film version. As Norman, Budd Mahan’s dry delivery received lots of chuckles and laughs at the opening. His often puzzled facial expressions were quite funny, although his chemistry with Karen Jordan as Ethel wasn’t quite believable. Mr. Mahan is a very tall man, and hugs and other tender moments with Ms. Jordan felt very awkward, adding to their lack of believability as a long-time married couple.
Ms. Jordan was a charming Ethel - full of pep and sweetness. Her vivid facial expressions and loving reactions to Mr. Mahan’s Norman were spot on, and the audience obviously fell in love with her. However, she wasn’t quite as good with the more dramatic moments of the play.
One of these moments was with Leigh Wyatt Moore, who played her daughter Chelsea. The argument these ladies had seemed to build out of nowhere, and it was over as quickly as it started. Other than this moment, Ms. Moore did a wonderful job as Chelsea. We ached for her as she tried to have any kind of relationship with her father (Norman), and we cheered that she was going to have a family of her own before it was too late. Nicely done.
Eddy Herring played Chelsea’s boyfriend (later husband) Bill, and he did so with an overly dramatic fear of Norman that was funny and yet appropriate based on what we knew about Chelsea’s bumpy relationship with her father. He and Mr. Mahan both shone in the scene where he tells Norman he and Chelsea planned to sleep together.
Riley Niksich played Bill’s son Billy, the catalyst in the play. It is he who brings Norman out of his “I’m just an old man waiting to die” funk by teaching him slang, going fishing with him, and just basically being there for him. Billy is the son Norman never had, and through his energetic performance, Riley ensured we knew that Billy enjoys every minute of it.
Riley’s real-life father, Steve Niksich, played Chelsea’s old summer boyfriend Charlie. His facial expressions were extremely telling, especially whenever he heard that Chelsea was in love with someone else. It was very sweet and sad to watch.
Charles A. Alexander’s set was, at first glance, the perfect old summer cabin with old rugs and curtains, all in shades of brown. Then the actors started moving around on it, and it wasn’t very practical. A porch swing took up a third of the set, and it was only used once at the end of the play. This swing was in an area that was apparently an enclosed porch, and entrances to get to this porch involved getting very close to the windows because of the outside foliage being too close. If that wasn’t awkward enough, the invisible “front door” was through the audience and sometimes the lake seemed to be that way and other times it was out the back. It just got very confusing, even allowing for suspension of disbelief. The set looked really nice, though. However, it was so unevenly lit that at times actors were in the dark.
I never quite knew what time period this production took place in, and the costumes didn’t tell me. Of course, other than including modern conveniences like cell phones, this play could really take place at any time after it was written (and for a while before, actually), but I’d still like some indication.
On Golden Pond is one of those modern classics that’s done often enough that everyone should see it. Richardson Theatre Centre’s production is not without its flaws, but the cast is quite strong and overall it’s a solid community theatre production. Opening night, the cast received a standing ovation, and I’ve no doubt that RTC’s audiences will continue to love it throughout the run.
Richardson Theatre Centre, 518 W. Arapaho Road, Suite 113, Richardson, TX 75080
Runs through February 7.
Actual days: Thursdays, 7:30 pm; Fridays and Saturdays, 8 pm; Sunday matinees, 2 pm. Tickets are $ 20 to 22 For information and to purchase tickets, go to http://richardsontheatrecentre.net/ address or call the box office at 972-699-1130.