If drama is conflict, then theater always will tell stories about families, according to Richard Stephens, director of the upcoming Port Angeles Community Playhouse production of "On Golden Pond."
"This play has become one of the most popular plays of the last 30 years because audiences of all ages, young and old, can relate to the family dynamics, familiar tensions and struggles that all families go through," Stephens said. "There is no instruction manual for happy, well-adjusted families - we all trip into them and most of us grope along and hope we are doing the right thing. As we move from our position of son or daughter into the role of parenthood, we gain new understanding and appreciation for how our parents raised us, usually as best they could."
"On Golden Pond," written by Ernest Thompson, tells the story of Norman and Ethel Thayer, an older, retired couple returning to their summer home in rural Maine. Norman is turning 80, has heart palpitations and may be in the early stages of losing his memory. Ethel, his wife, is the devoted matriarch who is trying to take care of her husband, boost his increasingly gloomy spirits and trying to bridge and heal the emotional chasm between Norman and their only daughter, Chelsea.
Chelsea returns home and brings her boyfriend Bill Ray to meet her parents and also brings along Bill's 13-year-old son Billy to Golden Pond. Ethel convinces Norman to let Chelsea and Bill leave Billy with the older couple for the summer and Norman discovers a new lease on life as he befriends Billy.
A summer of fishing, reading stories, baking cookies comes to an end as Chelsea returns from a honeymoon in Europe where she has married Bill. Back at the family summer home, she gives voice to feelings and frustrations that she has pent up for years. Shouts. Tears. And then, a deeper understanding, a detente, a measure of acceptance.
Through all of this there emerges a touching portrait of a loving, devoted couple, trying their best to take care of each other and renegotiate their relationship with their grown daughter. The drama and strong emotion of the play are tempered with humor and insightful touches of humanity and the understanding that a full life can be made up of many rich, small moments, such as a morning cup of coffee with the community mailman.
"I was so lucky to be able to hand pick a cast of outstanding actors, all of whom I had worked with before", said Stephens. "It was this familiarity with all of them and their own understanding of the material and the emotional underpinnings of the story that I think makes the cast seem so believable as a family on stage."
"In some ways, this has been one of the easiest shows to direct but emotionally, it has been real heart wrenching as well," he continued. "I am forced to look at my own life and how I am raising my kids to make sure I don't make the same mistakes these characters did. In that sense, I think that is why this play is so valuable. It really makes you think, and any person watching this show will have an 'a-ha!' moment, that part in the show when they realize they have been there, they recognize some part of their past in the drama unfolding on stage."
Paul Martin plays Norman Thayer, a retired English literature professor, and Nancy Beier is Ethel Thayer, the long-suffering wife who has a zest for living and is the glue who holds the family together.
Susie Bernsten is Chelsea, their estranged daughter who lives across the country who makes her first visit out to see her parents at the family home in eight years. Coming along with Chelsea is her boyfriend Bill Ray, a dentist, played in real life by Susie's husband, Carl Bernsten.
Carl and Susie are from Sequim and acted together previously in the P.A. Community Playhouse production of "The Man Who Came To Dinner."
David Winsor plays Bill's son Billy, who becomes the surrogate grandson to Norman, and Robert Sommers rounds out the cast as Charlie, the rural route mail carrier of the Golden Pond community and past boyfriend of Chelsea.
A drama about family relationships
Who: Port Angeles Community Players
What: "On Golden Pond"
When: Nov. 21-22, 25, 28-29 and Dec. 2, 5-6 at
7:30 p.m.; Nov. 23, 30 and Dec. 7 at 2 p.m.
Where: Port Angeles Community Playhouse,
123 E. Lauridsen Blvd., Port Angeles
Tickets: $10 adults, $5 children,
students and Tuesday evening performances
available at the door, Odyssey Bookshop, and online at www.pacommunityplayers.com.
Contact: For more information, call 452-6651
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