ON GOLDEN POND LIGHTS UP SKOKIE THEATRE

Cast of ON GOLDEN POND. Photo courtesy of Skokie Theatre.
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Go back in time to a place of idyllic splendor on the beautiful Golden Pond in lovely Maine as MadKap Productions presents ON GOLDEN POND. Dealing with aging parents, estranged family relationships, and bouts of dementia gives this play a fresh perspective on the realities of getting older.

Judy Rossignuolo-Rice and Bernie Rice. Photo courtesy of MapKap Productions.

The plot tells the story of Ethel and Norman Thayer, a retired couple whose 48th summer on Golden Pond is disrupted when their newly engaged daughter Chelsea stops by on her way to Europe. They volunteer to care for the fiancée’s 13-year-old son while they romp through Europe.

The difficulties of a couple in their twilight years and the challenges of resolving the generation gap take on a warm and witty edge. There is much humor here as the generations learn to live with each other, positively impacting all of their lives.

Based on the book by Ernest Thompson, MadKap Productions breathes new life into the play by casting real-life couple Bernie Rice and Judy Rossignuolo-Rice as Norman and Ethel Thayer. Their chemistry is obvious and contributes to the intimacy of seeing the play live. Their natural banter is magical and their true affection for each other adds to the ambience.

Two young men share the role of Billy Ray, Jr. Ari Magsino and AJ Carchi. I have to laugh because what I do remember from the film is the young boy telling Norman about “suck face” which means kissing and it becomes a joke between them. On the other hand, Norman encourages Billy Ray to read the classics. It is a win-win and everyone bonds.

Ari Magsino as Billy Ray, Jr., and Judy Rossignuolo Rice as Ethel. Photo courtesy of MadKap Productions.

The cabin has years of history as this was where Ethel and Chelsea both spent their summers and where they shared the same summer camp experience on the lake. Listen to the loons as they indicate the arrival and departure of the guests.

The play opened in 1979 and swept the Drama Desk Awards, receiving awards for Best New Play, Best Actor (Tom Aldredge as Norman), and Best Actress (Frances Sternhagen, who also won the Tony Award). The 2005 Broadway revival earned James Earl Jones a Tony Award for Best Actor. Ernest Thompson adapted his play into a movie in 1981 which won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay, as well as earning Best Actor awards for both Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn.

Kudos to producer Wendy Kaplan for bringing this masterpiece to Skokie and to Wayne Mell for his set design and spot-on direction.  Stand outs include Peter Goldsmith who plays goofy Charlie, the mailman who has a history with daughter Chelsea and Karyn Louise Doerfler as Chelsea who longs for a real relationship with her dad.

Now you can see it come to life for just a few short weeks through February 25 at Skokie Theatre, 7924 Lincoln Ave in downtown Skokie. Buy tickets at skokietheatre.org or by calling 847-677-7761.

Next up is the award-winning “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” March 29 – April 21. Sometime in April, the 10th Anniversary Season will be announced.

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