On Golden Pond is a classic.
There’s turmoil and tenderness, anger and affection. Above all, it’s a story is about what happens when relationships fracture and the miracle of how they can heal.
Courtenay Little Theatre brings the drama to the Sid Williams Theatre at 7:30 p.m. April 10 to 12 and April 16 and 17 with a 2 p.m. matinee April 13.
It’s said that Jane Fonda bought the original script with her dad, Henry Fonda, in mind as the lead actor. Both Fondas, along with Audrey Hepburn, starred in the 1982 academy-award winning movie.
“I’ think the original script is far better than the movie,” says CLT director Kirsten Humpherys. “On Golden Pond is a timeless love story that speaks to all ages.”
The story takes place at Norman and Ethel Thayer’s cabin in Maine. The elderly couple, played by Tony Arnold and Gail Limber, are looking forward to a quiet summer. Then their daughter (Shannon Phoenix) shows up with her boyfriend (Matt Williams) and his son (Zach Wood) in tow.
Norman and his daughter have a tumultuous relationship and the older Thayers aren’t keen on looking after an unknown teenage boy while their daughter and her boyfriend take a holiday.
But, to everyone’s surprise, the change in dynamics provides unexpected opportunities, adventure and the possibility of reconciliation.
“CLT produced the play in 1996 and did a staged reading in 2011,” says Humpherys. “It’s such an iconic story; I thought it was time we did it again.
“There were a number of actors at the auditions that I knew could play the parts of Ethel and Norman,” she adds. “It just happened that Tony and Gail, who played the Thayer’s in previous CLT performances, were the best choices for the roles.”
On Golden Pond is CLT’s entry to Theatre BC’s North Island Zone competition in May. That means the elaborate set must fit and function on the smaller stage at the Echo Theatre in Qualicum Beach, as well as the Sid.
“Needing the set to fit two stages is definitely the challenge for this production,” says Humpherys. “I wanted a realistic box set and it had to meet many requirements around doors, a staircase, a porch and tons of set dressing. Claire Guiot has created a beautiful cottage that functions well for all the comings and goings of the characters.”
Humpherys has been a CLT member off and on since 1999. But her love of theatre stretches back to her secondary school years when she was inspired by a great drama teacher.
“I was hooked from the get-go,” she says. “I minored in theatre in university but life intervened and I moved from the states to Hornby Island where I built a house and raised a family.”
One day over coffee with a friend she suggested they start a theatre company and Hornby Island Theatre was born. When she moved to Courtenay, she shifted her energy to CLT and has been a member ever since except for a brief period when she lived in Victoria.
Humpherys’ first major production as director was CLT’s Mouse Trap in 2010 followed by Waiting for the Parade two years later.
“We’re really fortunate to have CLT in the Comox Valley,” she says. “There is so much talent and knowledge within the group. It’s a great opportunity for people to learn all aspects of theatre and, of course, for people to be entertained.”
Her goal as director of On Golden Pond is to tell the story honestly. “This is a drama, with some funny lines, but it’s full of tension and emotion. That’s the underpinning of the story and I want to ensure that holds true.”
Tickets for On Golden Pond are available at the Sid Williams Theatre. For more information, visit www.sidwilliamstheatre.com. Please note that the production is not suitable for young children.
Paula Wild is a published author and regular contributor to the Comox Valley Record’s arts and entertainment section. www.paulawild.ca.