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Roger Thomas Column: The charming play ‘On Golden Pond’ returns soon

Recently I sat down with Gina Clark, the director of the Uwharrie Players production of “On Golden Pond.”

Sometimes when I write articles for the upcoming plays, I know little or nothing about the story that is coming to the stage. This time, however, I knew a lot, because I have been a fan of “On Golden Pond” since I first saw the film version in 1981.

Roger Thomas

When Gina and I spoke, I immediately sensed that she was also an avid fan of the “Pond” and I was glad she was. During our conversation we discussed many things about the story, and more importantly, we talked about the characters in this play.

Before we get to the plot and characters, however, we should acknowledge those who are aiding Gina in bringing the “Pond” to life.

Those making “Golden Pond” come to life, beyond the director, are six cast members. Russ Sharples plays Norman Thayer Jr., the role Henry Fonda played in the film version and won an Oscar for it. Andy Rassler plays Ethel Thayer. Katharine Hepburn won an Oscar for her portrayal of Ethel. I know Russ and Andy and I am sure that both of these fine actors will make these roles their own. I am looking forward to seeing their versions of the Thayers.

The other members of the cast include Chuck Roirdan as Charlie Martin, Lacey Whittaker as Chelsea Thayer Wayne, Tyler Poplin as Billy Ray and Ritchie Starnes as Bill Ray. This sounds like a great cast. I have not attended a rehearsal, but I looking forward to seeing all of these thespians as they rehearse.

But let us go back to my conversation with the director.

When Gina and I met at the Uwharrie Players clubhouse, we talked a lot about the story of the play. We talked about how the play is different from the movie because in the play, everything happens inside the lake home.

Gina pointed out to me that the play, because everything happens inside, has a more intimate feel to it. I am sure Gina is right because she has much more experience with the play than I ever will.

As I often do when I interview a director of a Uwharrie Players production, I asked Gina, “What do you think ‘On Golden Pond’ is about?”

This was the longest part of our conversation. First Gina said, “It is about coming to the end of life.”

Something everyone faces sooner or later.

Gina also said, “The play is also about the lessons we learn along the way.”

All of us learn lessons, they might not be the same ones as others, but life does have a way to teach us, especially if we are alert.

Then Gina said, “The film is also about coming of age.”

The character of Billy Ray comes of age in the story while he is staying on Golden Pond, but he is not the only one. Most of the characters are altered one way or another.

Finally, we also talked about all the relationships that change in the play and we talked about how the play would have been less with a different ending.

I will not write anything else about that alternative ending, because if you have never seen this profound play, or have not seen the film, you need to discover it
for yourself.

“On Golden Pond” will be performed at 110 N. Main St. in Norwood. The dates for the performances are at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 12, 13, 19 and 20 and 3 p.m. Oct. 14 and 21.

There is limited seating so please purchase your tickets early so you do not miss this wonderful production of “On Golden Pond.”

Roger W. Thomas of Albemarle, who usually reviews films for The Stanly News & Press, also loves local theatre.