Highly Recommended **** Many of you know that I have become somewhat enamored over a small “storefront” located in downtown Glenview, Oil Lamp Theater. This delightful 48 seat (plus) venue where one feels that the play is being put on in someone’s home has once again placed something special on its small, but well-used stage, Ernest Thompson’s “On Golden Pond”. There are many who know the Academy Award winning movie (how can one forget the Fonda’s and Katherine Hepburn), but as a play, in an intimate setting, the true meaning of the work shines through. Under the very slick direction of Artistic Director Keith Gerth, this well cast show tells us the story of the Thayer family, Norman, a retired professor ( played to perfection by Joe Schmitt) and his wife, Ethel (a glorious performance by Valerie Gorman) making their annual trip to their summer home “On Golden Pond”. Before I go into further detail, I must tell you that both of these actors did not do something that is often hard when doing a story that most people know as played by particular actors, and that is imitate Fonda and Hepburn. They recreated this couple using their own interpretation ( along with that of Gerth, I am sure) and are brilliant to watch.
Now, back to the story. Norman is about to become 80 years of age. His heart is not what it used to be and his memory is what one might expect from someone who is getting old. Ethel, much younger, is a lover of life and of course, her husband. They have a daughter. Chelsea (deftly handled by Julie Partyka) who is somewhat estranged from the family, in particular her father, who she calls Norman. She is divorced and has never had a child. She is coming to be there for her father’s 80th birthday and as it turns out, bringing her new boyfriend, Bill (Nick Dorado), who as it turns out, has a son, Billy ( a sharp portrayal by young Austin Molinaro).
The couple is off to Europe leaving Billy behind and for the Thayers it appears that new life is brought into theirs. They are “grandparents” for a short period of time and Norman becomes happier than he has been in the past. Billy does all the things that his daughter never wanted any part of during her youth and a great “bond” between the man and boy takes place as they fish, discuss books, girls (where Norman learns about kissing and that the new term used is “sucking face”). When Chelsea returns to pick up Billy, she announces that while in Europe, she and Bill were married and that indeed Billy is now a part of the family. She also sees the closeness that her father has with her now step-son and realizes that this may be the time to rekindle the relationship with him.
This is the third play that Oil Lamp has done exploring the dynamics of the “father-daughter” relationship. The beauty of this story is the change of the seasons and the idea that the “summer home” is a different and unique place for different experiences than in the “city home”. Our lives and families are not what most of us grew up with. I know, that as a child, my entire family lived in the same neighborhood. I could visit either of my grandmothers any day of the week. My aunts and uncles lived on the same block. This hardly happens any more. We have grandkids that live in other parts of the country and are lucky to see them four times a year. One of the highlights of this play is that Chelsea does get a second chance with Norman thru her new “family” and in particular , Billy who represents all that her dad wanted her to be. It teaches us to learn to listen and observe and keep our minds ( and perhaps our hearts) open to those who are part of our lives. The last scene will likely bring a tear to your eye- a happy one, so bring a tissue or two.
There is another role in this play, Charlie, the local mailman, who back in the day wanted to date Chelsea and perhaps even now is in love with her. Zach Bloomfield does a splendid job proving that the size of the role is not as important as the importance the actor brings to the role. I have a feeling that Gerth designed the set and filled the stage with a great array of furniture and props that truly help to move the story along. Watching productions in this quaint , special theater, one can see the love that he places into every detail, both on the stage and for the audience. He loves what he does and it shows!
“On Golden Pond” will continue at The Oil Lamp Theater, located at 1723 West Glenview Road (just west of Waukegan Road) thru July 31st with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
NO performance on July 15th)
Running time two hours and 15 minutes (with an intermission)
Tickets are $35 and they are reserved seats which can be obtained by calling 847-834-0738 or by visiting www.oillamptheater.org
There is plenty of free parking on the street andin a lot adjacent to the building. This company, offers free snacks and if you BYO, they will uncork and pour for you prior to the show and during the intermission. You will find this theater like being at a friend’s house (which is how they started Oil Lamp).
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “On Golden Pond”.