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Review: On Golden Pond at Indiana Repertory Theatre

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Ernest Thompson’s 1979 play On Golden Pond always makes me fidgety because it’s about people who succeed at staying insulated. But the IRT’s production of it is so gorgeous that I mostly thought of slapping mosquitoes, not people, as I watched it.

Norman (Robert Elliott) talks as if this will be his last summer at the cottage he and his wife, Ethel (Darrie Lawrence), move to in Maine every May. He’s in his late 70s with a heart condition. She’s in her late 60s, pretty as ever but not quite as nimble as she used to be.

Their 40-something daughter, Chelsea (Constance Macy), hasn’t been back to visit from L.A. in years, but she comes this summer to ask if they’ll take care of her 13-year-old son (Griffin Grider), of the man (Bill Ray, played by Ryan Artzberger) she wants to travel to Europe with for a month or so. Mailman Charlie Martin (Charlie Clark) adds his contagious laugh to the mix.

All the actors are convincing but the chemistry between Elliott and Lawrence is a special pleasure. I believed that they’ve been married for decades and still care about each other, even though Norman is, as the others say, full of “crap” and “bullshit.” Even Ethel calls Norman a “poop,” but she loves him as is.

Robert M. Koharchik’s rich lake cabin scenic design, Betsy Cooprider-Bernstein’s cozy lighting design, and Richard K. Thomas’ nostalgic sound design, which incorporates music by Carrie Newcomer, and even Linda Pisano’s woodsy-palette costume design all made the tension drain from my neck and shoulders. Also soothing was being able to watch the crew under stage manager Nathan Garrison change the set dressings in a kind of calm dance between scenes.

Even though none of the characters grows or even changes much, they’re so beautifully portrayed under Janet Allen’s direction that I left feeling refreshed and hopeful anyway. You just never know about life. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. 

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