With its upcoming production of On Golden Pond at Hamilton Family Theatre Cambridge, Drayton Entertainment is getting set to put its own spin on a classic story.
“I think it endures because it’s about recognition of family. It’s about the wonderful things in families, but also the difficulty some relationships have. At the center of the play is a lifelong conflict between father and daughter – they just have never found a way to get along, and the mother is sort of caught between. She’s always trying to make things better, smooth things over,” said director Marti Maraden.
The play follows Ethel and Norman Thayer as they return to their summer home at Golden Pond for the 48th year for some much-needed rest and relaxation. However their lives are upended when their daughter Chelsea visits for her father’s 80th birthday, bringing along boyfriend Bill and his teenage son, Billy Ray. After an unexpected relationship blooms family dynamics come to the forefront as they are forced to navigate the generation gap.
On Golden Pond was first performed at Hudson Theatre in New York City in 1979. Two years later, it was made into a movie starring Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn and Jane Fonda, winning Oscars for best actor, best actress and best adapted screenplay. Although it has been performed many times over the years, Maraden is not bound by the work others have done.
“I looked at maybe a couple of YouTube clips of the film… not to see anything about the acting, because the film script is quite different from the stage script. I looked for prop things because I’m trying to keep it set sort of in the earlier part of the ’80s. I did see one production that my friend was in, but I haven’t seen another production of it, so I’m not kind of haunted by anybody else’s version of it,” she said.
The cast for Drayton’s production is a mix of experienced actors and newcomers, Maraden said.
“With Ben Campbell (Norman) and Janet-Laine Green (Ethel) you have two incredibly gifted experienced actors who’ve done so much work in stage, film and everything else. And Stacy Smith (Chelsea) has had a remarkable career on stage and in film and television,” she said.
The play also stars Cyrus Lane as Bill, while Justin Bott, who Maraden described as “favourite of Drayton,” plays the Thayer’s mailman, Charlie Martin, who has unrequited feelings for Chelsea.
Billy Ray is played by up-and-coming actor Evan Kearns, who has appeared in Billy Elliot and The Breathing Hole at the Stratford Festival, and will appear in the soon-to-be-released Netflix film 13: The Musical.
“He’s had some real experience, but it’s pretty new to him to be doing this kind of play on a big stage with all of these senior actors. It’s been really fun watching Ben Campbell just take to him, so he’s been very much welcomed into the cast,” Maraden said.
While there’s an array of live productions returning to the stage, there’s plenty of reasons to see On Golden Pond, Maraden added.
“It’s just an absolutely lovely life-affirming play. It’s very funny. And it’s very touching and thought provoking. Because they will get to go to cottage country, if [theatregoers] are not getting up to their own cottages they can enjoy being at a cottage in On Golden Pond. It has beautiful visuals, a beautiful set. And above all, just lovely actors. I think that for me when I go to the theatre, seeing wonderful acting is what always draws me.”
The Drayton Entertainment production of On Golden Pond runs July 20 to August 6 at the Hamilton Family Theatre Cambridge. Tickets are $53 or $32 for youth under 20, available by calling the box office at 519-621-8000 – toll free at 1-855-drayton (372-9866) – or online at www.draytonentertainment.com.