Oil Lamp Theater’s ON GOLDEN POND Review – Charming. Sweet. Conflicted!


The Idyllic Place

All of us have different recollections, experiences, wisps of some common er, something that we think is special and unique.  Yet, somehow, there’s that mysterious common thread we didn’t even know was there, let alone shared. I never went to a place call Golden Pond, did you?  And yet… Somehow I had a sense of déjà vu. Could it be the authentic look of the sets created for the play by carpenter/Artistic director, Keith Gerth?


At home

 Or is it the skillful, sensitive acting of the outstanding  cast: Joe Schmitt in a notably measured, sympathetic performance as Norman, Valerie Gorman as Ethel as his patient, loving  and wise wife, Julie Partyka as Chelsea their stressed-out daughter, Nick Dorado as Bill Ray, Austin Molinaro as Billy Ray Jr., and Zach Bloomfield as Charlie. What charming characters they portrayed!


And their sweet, straighforward story could hardly have been more sympathetic:

Norman Thayer, a retired professor, and his wife, Ethel, are back for a 48th year at their idyllic summer cottage, Golden Pond. In their golden years, the elderly couple provide a perfect contrast to each other. Though battling heart palpitations and a failing memory, Norman remains spirited and cantankerous while Ethel, 10 years his junior, delights in all the small things that have enriched and continue to color their long life together.



As Norman approaches his 80th birthday, they are visited by their estranged daughter, Chelsea, and her fiancé, who go off to Europe and leave his teenage son behind for the summer.


The boy quickly becomes the “grandchild” the elderly couple have longed for, and as Norman revels in taking his ward fishing and thrusting good books at him, he also learns some lessons about modern teenage awareness in return. While their bond strengthens, intimations of mortality are in the air with a growing sense of urgency for Norman to make peace with his daughter. When she returns, Chelsea is married and her stepson has the relationship with her father that she always wanted.



The third play in Oil Lamp’s 2016 trilogy of productions exploring the dynamics of father-daughter relationships, On Golden Pond is, in my opinion, the most evocative: In the tranquil setting of Golden Pond, would the fleeting nature of time become tangible to you?  Could the passing of the summer season, and all the changes it brings have similar impact on you?  If you would like to pursue these questions (and the questions the answers prompt!), Oil Lamp Theater suggests:

 Photos: Oil Lamp Theater



On Golden Pond, a 1981 film directed by Mark Rydell, screenplay by Ernest Thompson (Playwright) was adapted from his 1979 play of the same title.  Henry Fonda won the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Actor in what was his final film role.  Co-star Katharine Hepburn won the Academy Award for Best Actress as did Thompson for his script.  There were seven additional Oscar nominations for the film, including Jane Fonda, who played the daughter.



The Bridge Ladies: A Memoir by Betsy Lerner (2016).  At the core of Golden Pond is the daughter’s earnest desire to connect with her aging mother and father.  Similarly, Lerner’s memoir explores the concept of the baby boomer generation’s desire to connect with the greatest generation.  Lerner describes this as the “don’t ask, don’t tell generation.”



This American Life – Episode 583 – It’ll Make Sense When You’re Older – Act Two – Adulthood

Comedian Sasheer Zamata does this joke about her mom in her standup act. About how her mom hates white people. They finally sit down to talk about why, and Sasheer finds out how mad her mom is at her own mom, for trying to make her get along with white people when she was young. 


Ernest Thompson (Playwright) has won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a Writers Guild Award, and a Broadway Drama Guild Award for Best Play. His work has been nominated for a Tony, an Emmy, and a British Academy Award. His more than 35 plays have been seen in theatres around the world.

On Golden Pond, has been translated into 30 languages, Arabic the newest, and played in more than 40 countries on six continents.



Performances of On Golden Pondare Thursdays through Sundays, with evening performances at 8:00 pm and Sunday matinees at 3:00pm. Tickets are $35 and include complimentary cookies, soft drinks and healthy snacks. Student tickets are $20. Oil Lamp Theater is BYOB with complementary corkage and glasses.


Tickets are available at 847-834-0738 or online at the oillamptheater website. Group rates are available.

Title:            On Golden Pond

By:              Ernest Thompson

Directed by: Artistic Director Keith Gerth

Cast:           Joe Schmitt, Valerie Gorman, Julie Partyka, Nick Dorado, Austin Molinaro, Zach Bloomfield


Schedule:    Thursdays through Sundays. Evening performances at 8:00pm, Sunday matinees at 3:00pm.

Location:     Oil Lamp Theater, 1723 Glenview Road, Glenview

Prices:         All performances $35

                   Group rates available


Box Office: 847-834-0738


Closing performance: Sunday, July 31, 3:00pm


Find Oil Lamp Theater on Facebook or follow @OilLampTheater on Twitter. For more information, visit oillamptheater website.

 Photos: Oil Lamp Theater

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