On Golden Pond
Central Florida Community Arts
By Earnest Thompson
Directed by Donald Rupe
Starring Larry Stallings and Christina Hicks
Summers in Maine, winters in Delaware. What more could you want in retirement? Norman (Stallings) and Ethyl (Hicks) summer on picturesque Golden Pond. They fish, pick strawberries and swat mosquitos; their routine is only interrupted by the goofy mailman Charlie (Pat Clark). All is stable until their daughter Chelsea (Tracy Jane Smith) arrives with news of an impending marriage to Bill (Patrick James). It’s not her first go at wedded bliss and she has teenage son Billy (Will Gavigan) as proof. Norman isn’t happy about any of this, but he discovers Billy’s up for fishing while his step dad-to-be works on breaking down Chelsea’s emotional issues. The lucky pair head off to Brussels leaving Norman and Billy to bond. It’s the sort of cosmic shift in life we all must handle, and in the end, everyone ends up in a new stable orbit.
Stallings does a great job of the old guy slipping from sanity to a multifaceted anger at the world. And you know he’s still loved even as he becomes “a handful”. Ms. Hicks keeps a level head and rescues him when he gets lost picking strawberries. I’ve met a few Mainers in my life and Mr. Clark is a true architype in this role. He may not be the sharpest tool in the postal service tool box, but the mail does get through. Mr. James hold his head high as he seeks peace with the Old Man; he’s a nice enough guy here, the sort that tries too hard to be liked in a hostile encounter. And Mr. Gavin sparkly as the kid who just needs a vaguely competent grandfather to make his transition to adulthood go smoothly.
It’s a nice, gently flowing tale, all set upon the skeleton of a house with the sort of faulty construction all Maine deep woods summer homes feature. Mr. Rupe finds nuance in the people on this stage; each is a frail human with unreasonable demons and tortured back stories. It’s not a holiday play by any means, but its lack of holly and tinsel tells me: This Christmas, too, shall pass.