Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
Most people desire a place that can take them away from everyday life. In the next stage offering at Indiana State University’s Crossroads Repertory Theatre summer season, Norman and Ethel Thayer hope to find that place in Golden Pond, Maine. But big life issues have a way of showing up there, too.
During the summer in which the play is set, they face the challenges of aging and also choose to work through some long-seeded issues of communication when their adult daughter, Chelsea, comes from California for a visit. Directed by Indiana University professor of theater Dale McFadden, the bittersweet play opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the New Theatre on the ISU campus.
In the 1981 film version of “On Golden Pond,” real-life father and daughter Henry and Jane Fonda play the aging father and sometimes-confrontational adult daughter.
Katherine Hepburn is the equally strong-willed wife and mother. The three central characters are being brought to life on the Crossroads Rep stage by well-known actors Lew Hackleman (Norman), Cathy Sponsler (Chelsea) and Julie Dixon (Ethel).
In the play, the elder Thayers arrive at their cabin on the shores of tranquil Golden Pond.
They notice some things never change, such as the arrival of the loons. Other constants, like the abandoned girls’ camp across the lake, show signs of times past. Likewise, Norman and Ethel are not as young as they used to be, and the dynamics of their relationship undergo changes. Shortly after they arrive for their summer stay, they are surprised by the arrival of their daughter with her love interest, Bill Ray (Jason Bowen), and his teenage son, Billy (Jonathan
“People think this play is about growing old, but really it’s about growing up,” Bowen commented. “Everybody has family relationships they want to work out.”
In the case of Bowen’s character, he faces the challenge of meeting and befriending his cantankerous potential father-in-law while, at the same time, sorting through his relationship with his son, who is dealing with a new stepmother coming into his life following his parents’ divorce.
Ethel and Chelsea have their own issues to work through. They, too, have had a strained relationship through the years, with Chelsea convinced her mother wasn’t there for her when she needed her. In the play they find connections that draw them closer.
“A person is who she is,” Sponsler said. “You either decide to take her as she is or you risk losing that relationship.”
A factor that draws Ethel and Chelsea together is their shared experience of the girls’ camp across the lake. “Ethel talks a lot about how the lake has changed with houses being built and the camp closing. But what we find is that their individual camp experiences they had as young girls is something they have in common,” Sponsler said.
“Every character in the play is in a state of transition,” Bowen observed. Wachala agreed: “My character comes in with youth and develops a good relationship with Norman.” Indeed, Norman does find a new reason to be active and even learn new lingo when the young Billy Ray stays for the summer.
Rounding out the cast is another Crossroads Rep veteran, Ryan Niemiller. He plays Charlie Martin, the local mail carrier who is another constant at Golden Pond and has a special interest in the news that his old high school crush, Chelsea, is arriving for a visit.
Additional performances of “On Golden Pond” are Saturday and Sunday and July 5, 20 and 26. All begin at 7:30 p.m. except the Sunday matinee at 4 p.m.
After that matinee, McFadden and Hackleman will remain after the show for a free Sunday Talk open to all audience members plus anyone else who wishes to attend. They will discuss the challenges and triumphs that occurred during the process of producing “On Golden Pond.” Other cast members will be present to answer questions and offer their perspectives on creating such an intimately personal play.
Tickets for this professional production are $15 each for general admission. Indiana State University students can obtain one free ticket per show with student ID, while ISU faculty and staff receive a reduced ticket price.
Tickets may be purchased at www.crossroadsrep.com or at the ticket office inside the theater, 540 N. Seventh St.
For additional ticket information, call (812) 237-3333.