‘On Golden Pond’ debuts at Postal Playhouse

Wednesday, March 8, 2023
(Sentinel Photo by Beverly Van Buskirk) Ethel (Jill Young) and Norman (Jeff Neary) look at the teddy bear their daughter Chelsea played with years ago at the cottage on the lake and reminisce about their many summers at the cottage.

LE MARS — The Le Mars Community Theatre kicks off its 2023 with the production of “On Golden Pond.”

The show opens Thursday, March 9, at 7:30 p.m., and runs through Wednesday, March 15, on the Postal Playhouse stage. Shows are Friday, March 10 and Saturday, March 11, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, March 12 at 2 p.m., and Monday, March 13, Tuesday, March 14 and Wednesday, March 15, at 7:30 p.m.

“On Golden Pond” is a 1979 play by Ernest Thompson, and takes place at the family’s summer cottage on a lake called Golden Pond, in the far reaches of northern New England.

(Sentinel Photo by Beverly Van Buskirk) Norman (Jeff Neary) listens as his daughter Chelsea (Angela Riedemann) asks his wife, Ethel (Jill Young), about her father and how is he really doing.

The plot focuses on aging couple Ethel and Norman Thayer, who spend each summer at their home on a lake called Golden Pond. During the year the story takes place, they are visited by daughter Chelsea with her fiancé and his son in tow. The play explores the often turbulent relationship the young woman shared with her father growing up, and the difficulties faced by a couple in the twilight years of a long marriage.

Danna Schuster is the director for this production, with Pete Lassie as producer.

“I chose ‘On Golden Pond’ because I was always a fan of the movie. I wanted to do my own interpretation at LCT and give our actors the chance to take on these great roles,” she said. “The script is particularly well written and it provides such great conversations and character potential for actors.  It’s intelligent and witty, but also deals with some real to life subject matter that we can all relate to. The lake cabin is also a great opportunity to design a cozy set that invites the audience in.”

Taking on lead roles of Norman and Ethel Thayer are Jeff Neary and Jill Young.

Angela Riedeman plays their daughter Chelsea, with Bob Hill as her fiancé, Bill, Liem Parks as his 13-year-old son, Billy, and Joe Ouradnik as Charles Martin, a local who has known the Thayers for years.

“I have a fantastic cast to work with and they have done a great job embodying these characters.  Audiences will definitely enjoy the chemistry between Jeff and Jill as the main characters. There is really great chemistry among the whole group. Many of them have worked together before and that familiarity has really shown through,” she said.She noted one of the main challenges for the group has been the sheer number of lines of the two leads, especially Norman.

“They are really great parts, but that requires a lot of work away from rehearsal. They’ve done a great job ... especially considering Jill missed a full week of rehearsal due to illness,” she said.

Young tackles the role of Ethel, which was played by Katherine Hepburn in the 1981 movie.

“Ethel has a lot of energy. This part has a range of emotions happening throughout the play,” Young said of what she likes about the play.

“I loved all the actors in the movie,” she said. As far as making the role her own, Young added, “Your role develops as you practice with the other actors, so it ends up developing naturally.”

Young likes the cast because “they are all so very supportive and want each actor to succeed with their individual parts.”

She added it’s hard to pick a favorite moment or scene. “I really do like the whole play,” she said.

Neary said the part of Norman Thayer Jr. presents a challenge to him.

“I’m used to playing funny or humorous parts and this is my first crusty curmudgeon part so it has been a challenge to develop that type of character and meet that challenge,” he said. “I have had to focus before each practice to move into the unique character and to think older (80) and to move older. I have just tried to see this character through the playwright’s eyes and add my character interpretation to it.”

Neary said he watched the movie last fall but also recalls it from when he first saw it in the 80s.

“It helped me to focus on the deeper aspects and message of the story,” he said.

Neary loves the cast, made up of mostly veterans but with a fresh new face in Liem Parks.

“It’s always great to work with a cast that you know and can interact with on stage. It makes for less stress. Liem is a great new face. He’s doing a great job and matches well with all of us. We love new faces on our stage and welcome their creativity and energy and Liam fits that bill,” he said.

As far as working with Young as Ethel, Neary calls it “wonderful.”

“She is a treasure and so easy to work with. She is a perfect Ethel,” he said.

Neary has several scenes that he calls his favorites.

One is his fireside chat with Bill where he asks Norman’s permission to sleep with Chelsea is a favorite part because has humorous aspects.

“My kitchen table discussion with Charlie and Ethel is as funny as it gets due the multiple directions it takes and our obliviousness of the confusion. Finally the last scene with Ethel when I have a heart attack is very touching and a suitable end to the show,” Neary said.

Ouradnik plays Charlie, and describes his character as a simple man who has a unique bond with the Thayer, especially Chelsea.

“I have actually never seen the movie. With a little direction from Danna and Pete and really feeling the script, I’ve just tried to be my own Charlie,” he said. “Every person in this cast and crew is very genuine as a person so it’s easy to feel comfortable around them and watch how they bring that to their character.”

His favorite scene?

“The big talk between Bill Ray and Norman is by far the most entertaining, however my favorite is the short one I have with Chelsea and Ethel as I reminisce about our younger years,” Ouradnik said.

The cast also welcomes a newcomer to the LCT stage in Liem Parks.

Parks said after attending the last production of LCT, he found when auditions dates were posted.

“So I got my chance to audition and got the part,” he said.

Parks plays Billy Jr., the son of Chelsea’s boyfriend.

“I like that in the beginning the kid just doesn’t really care, but in the second act he’s a completely different character. He’s nicer, more willing to be there, beause it seems in the first act he really doesn’t want to be there,” Parks said.

Parks is a 2021 graduate of Le Mars Community High School, and participated in several productions during his high school years, including “Breaking the News,” and “10 Ways to Survive Life in Quarantine.”

“We were going to do ‘The Usual Suspects’ but it got cut short due to Covid,” he said.

He also participated in the musical, “Just Another High School Musical” and performed “Nine Worst Breakups of All Time” for a one act entry in speech.

While he admits to not being a really musical person, he likes to sing.

“I like being on stage, seeing the different interactions, and trying to be a different person. It’s fun to try to pretend you’re someone else and really embrace that character,” he said.

What’s it like to work with a veteran cast?

“Everyone seems to know what they’re doing, other than me sometimes, because I don’t know how it works here yet. But they seem to know whenever Danna says something, they end up doing it. They know how to change it and proceed to change it,” he said.

When not on stage, Parks can be found working at Lowe’s. He is also teaching himself how to play the euphonium.

While the film version featured the likes of Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn and Jane Fonda, the local talent on the Le Mars Community Theatre stage will give a memorable performance all their own.

“I’m really excited to open and present this production to our public. We’re doing some new things with projection and I feel like it adds so much depth and interest to our stage,” Schuster concluded.

Tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at 546-5788, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.., Monday through Friday. Online reservations may be made at through the Le Mars Community Theatre website, https://www.lemarslive.org and clicking on the “Buy Tickets” tab.

In addition, 2023 memberships are also available to purchase.

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