by Ernest Thompson
October 7 – 23, 2016
Touching, funny and warmly perceptive study of a spirited and lovable elderly couple facing their twilight years. "ON GOLDEN POND is a work of rare simplicity and beauty." —NY Daily News. "…a rare and memorable theatrical experience…" —Variety. "What courage it must have taken for Mr. Thompson in the 1970s to write a play with so much affection in it!" —The New Yorker.
On Golden Pond
By Ernest Thompson
Directed by Juergen K. Tossman
Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.
When Ernest Thompson’s On Golden Pond premiered on Broadway in 1979, it was a modest success, running for only 126 performances, but winning a Best Actress Tony for the legendary Frances Sternhagen and a number of other awards. It’s been a staple of regional theater groups ever since, being a rare showcase for older talent (there was even a musical version performed locally at the Derby Dinner Playhouse in the very late 90’s, with book and lyrics by Thompson), and is probably best remembered for the 1981 Henry Fonda/Katherine Hepburn/Jane Fonda film version. It also reunited The Sound of Music stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer for a live 2001 television production, over a decade before The Sound of Music Live! made live productions on television a staple again on the small screen.
It’s also the latest offering from Louisville’s own Bunbury Theater, and it’s a production that shows why the show has such staying power. Its themes of love and aging, and generations bonding, are timeless, and the Bunbury show really drives home the message. It really is a beautiful story, sharply directed by Juergen K. Tossmann, and featuring an excellent cast.
The play is set in the living room of a summer home located next to the titular body of water, and we are quickly introduced to the elderly Thayer couple: Norman (Brad Castleberry), strong-willed but slowly losing his faculties as he approaches his 80th birthday, and Ethel (Ann Meyer), his devoted and equally obstinate wife. We get a true sense of a lasting relationship from these two, and Castleberry and Meyer turn in some amazing, soulful performances.
Over the course of their summer vacation, their daughter Chelsea (Tiffany Smith) comes to visit in time for Norman’s birthday festivities, bringing along her fiancé Bill (Francis Whitaker) and Bill’s son, Billy Ray (Connor McGuffey). Also in the wings is the local mailman Charlie (Brent Braun), Chelsea’s high school sweetheart. When Norman and Ethel agree to keep Billy Ray for the summer while Chelsea and Bill take an off-continent vacation, three generations come to terms with family responsibilities, hopefully leading to a late-in-life reconciliation of the strained relationship between Norman and Chelsea.
The show is leisurely paced, especially in the first act, and some viewers may find it too slow at times. But this is by the playwright’s design, and it’s a necessary way to bring the audience around to the simplicity of life in the golden years. The pace picks up significantly when the younger characters are introduced, and I don’t believe that’s by accident – it’s a comment on the mores of the changing generations.
Typical for a Bunbury production, the technical aspects are spot-on, especially with the amazingly detailed set designed by Bob Bush, and the beautifully understated lighting by Gerald Kean.
If you have experienced the change in life that comes with the advanced aging of your parents or other loved ones, or if you yourself are experiencing what life has in store for you in your twilight years, I can’t recommend this show enough. Considering the subject matter, it’s surprisingly upbeat and asks questions that will get you thinking long after you have left the theater.
Featuring Brent Braun, Brad Castleberry, Connor McGuffey, Ann Meyer, Tiffany Smith, and Francis Whitaker.
On Golden Pond
7, 8, 9, 13,14,15,20,21,22- 7:30
by David Sedaris
December 2 – 18, 2016
"A delightfully thorny account of working as a Yuletide elf at Macy's. Priceless observations, both outrageous and subtle. Destined to hold a place in the annals of American humor writing." —NY Times. "THE SANTALAND DIARIES is quite possibly the thirty-one funniest pages of text published in the past quarter century…David Sedaris slays me." —Seattle Weekly.
Starring: Karl Seitz
A 30th anniversary Holiday Present for you
A special reading of a new short story
by Juergen K. Tossmann
OTTO'S CHRISTMAS GIFT
Featuring Matt Orme, Rena Cherry Brown
Juergen K. Tossmann
A touching story of a young immigrant boy
and his special Christmas gift
When Otto is teased by his teacher and classmates he relies on the friendship of a small group of classmates and his 93 year old Grandfather to guide him through a very difficult time.
The reading of OTTO’S CHRISTMAS GIFT will follow
THE SANTALAND DIARIES after a brief intermission
There is no charge for this production when attending
THE SANTALAND DIARIES
by Edward Albee
February 17 – March 5, 2017
Winner of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize. “This engaging examination of the life of one woman is a perfect illustration of why theater is an indispensable art." —NY Times. "An extraordinarily brilliant play...THREE TALL WOMEN is the best, most forceful play [Albee] has given us.”—NY Post. "Beautiful and enduring.”—The New Yorker. "A dazzler… Electrifying and heartrending, each of Albee's women is memorable…" —Wall Street Journal.
by Juergen K. Tossman
April 7 – 23, 2017
Returning as a Derby Event
It's one week before the Kentucky Derby. In an empty box at the finish line, Wheaton Papajohn and Vita Prim meet in a chance encounter. He's an avid horse player, she's a novice with secrets. The sparks fly when these opposites learn the true meaning of a wager! “Tossmann’s comedy fills the gap with uncommon gusto.....a generous stream of laughs and ideas that start as soon as this odd couple gets out of the gate..... I BET ON THE NAG! is a sure thing — and a great way to kick of your Derby doings.”–Leo Eccentric Observer
by Liz Fentress
June 9 – 25, 2017
Tensions ensue as ninety-year-old Edith Jones is pressured to sell her home to the church by her rigid brother-in-law. On a cool autumn night, joined by her hapless “yard-man,” the brother-in-law, a young college student and her Marine Corps boyfriend, Edith struggles to assemble an entry for her very last rose show and leave a lasting impression on the world.