SPRING HILL — By now, the drama On Golden Pond is probably familiar to most people. But the sometimes warm, sometimes prickly relationships in the play can bring as much joy, if not more, as the story itself, so watching it again and again can be satisfying and heartwarming every time.
It opens Feb. 11 and continues weekends through Feb. 21 at Stage West Community Playhouse, and publicist Kathy Cappelle says ticket sales have been so brisk the theater has added a performance.
It's the story of crotchety Norman Thayer and his loving, patient wife, Ethel, a long-married couple spending what could be one of their last — if not their last — summer together at their cottage on the shores of a lake known as Golden Pond.
Norman (Ernie Rowland, Andrew in Oklahoma!) is closing in on 80 years old and having problems remembering things, but Ethel (Betsy Glasson, eight-time HAMI winner, most recently as Jeri Neal in The Dixie Swim Club) is as bright and chipper as always and does her best to keep him from harm.
They settle in as Charlie the postman (Sam Petricone, HAMI as Ali Hakim in Oklahoma!) drops by to reminisce about his affection for the Thayers' daughter, Chelsea (Emily Nettnin, BellaDonna in If a Man Answers at Richey Suncoast Theatre). He's delivering a letter from Chelsea saying she's coming for a visit, along with her latest boyfriend, Bill Ray (Craig Balcomb, Ben Hecht in Moonlight and Magnolias).
Norman and Chelsea's relationship has always been rocky, but he resigns himself to her visit, if for no other reason than to placate Ethel, who has a close and loving relationships with their daughter.
Chelsea arrives with Bill and — surprise! — Bill's 13-year-old son, Billy (Chay Nott, Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird). As always, the air is tense between Chelsea and her dad, but Ethel smooths things over as best she can. The situation isn't helped when Chelsea asks her parents to keep young Billy so she and Bill can jaunt off to Europe.
As might be expected, the irascible Norman is not exactly thrilled at the prospect of having Billy underfoot for two months, and Billy isn't overjoyed about staying with the Thayers. But then things take an unexpected path.
On Golden Pond opened on Broadway in February 1979, but spent most of its run at the small Century Theatre in the basement of the Paramount Hotel. It had a Tony Award-winning revival in 2005, starring James Earl Jones and Leslie Uggams. It was adapted into a movie in 1981 starring Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn and Jane Fonda, and was nominated for an Academy Award as best picture.