"That's what happens if you live long enough -- you end up being old," says Ethel Thayer in "On Golden Pond." Also cute, she might have added. This play about waspy old folks summering in Maine is relentlessly precious and dramatically glib. Perhaps "On Golden Puddle" would have been a better title.
That said, Ernest Thompson's 1979 two-acter, made into a hit movie starring Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda, is also well-crafted, and the Burn Brae Dinner Theater has mustered a generally competent production in an environment normally unsuited to drama of any stripe. Somehow, midst the place-settings, they put on a show.
Roger McEwan plays Norman Thayer Jr., a crusty old coot whose xenophobia and anti-Semitism apparently don't dampen his salt-of-the-earth charm. Louise Bloom is Ethel Thayer, Norman's wife of 48 years, who humors and goads him as he slouches toward mortality.
Puttering about an anemic set of the Thayers' lakefront cottage -- the earthtoned decor several cuts below L. L. Bean, and the view looking more like egg tempera than water -- McEwan and Bloom manage to convey some theatrical chemistry.It's the production's strongest asset.
McEwan, particularly, has matters well in hand -- even as Bloom seems to be doing a Hepburn sendup. He makes Norman more than a sweet old fogey: he's a tough customer, too. "Maybe he tried to kill himself," he tells Ethel after she discovers her treasured childhood doll, Elmer, in the fireplace. "Maybe he wanted to be cremated. Maybe he has cancer or termites or something."
Jean Anne Kain as the Thayers' errant daughter, Arthur L. Laupus as her boyfriend and John Keisling as his teenage son are all fine, and the only inept performance comes from Charlie the mailman: mainly his distractingly bad New England accent. Quip for quip and homily for homily, the play otherwise makes for a nice between-meal treat.
ON GOLDEN POND -- At Burn Brae Dinner Theater through March 20.