Review: Jokes zing across stage in Richland Players' 'On Golden Pond'

Special to the Tri-City HeraldMay 6, 2013 

The Richland Players’ delightful production, On Golden Pond, is a treat.

You wouldn’t think that a play about that old stage cliche, a crusty curmudgeon with a soft marshmallow heart, wouldn’t have much depth. This one is not only deep, but also hilarious and touching.

A lot of the juice in this performance comes from Richard Reuther who plays the lead role. Norman Thayer is a retired English professor about to turn 80 and feeling the pangs of aging.

He bumbles around the set spewing hilarious one-liners and managing to insult everyone he comes into contact with.

Reuther’s performance includes brilliant comic timing and marvelous stage mannerisms. Even when he is delivering a line of cruel wit – which he does about once a minute in this play – you glimpse the sadness about his aging and impending death even as you laugh out loud.

Sherry Teachout is the perfect foil to Norman as his wife, Ethyl Thayer. She plays the straight man, setting up Norman’s savage jokes. Teachout is very fine in the role, embodying a willfully cheerful woman who has spent decades adjusting to a hostile and guarded husband.

When their adult child, Chelsea, shows up at the cabin, the familial feeling ices over like a pond in January.

Chelsea’s boyfriend Bill is no intellectual match for Norman’s cutting witticisms. But instead of cowering under Norman’s criticism, when the two men meet each other they engage in a battle of wills that is very entertaining.

Bill’s teenage son, Billy Ray Jr., has been dragged along to Golden Pond against his will. Billy, played superbly by Dylan Page, is a smartaleck who throws Norman’s insults back into his face, and then some. But he does it with a sly wit.

After a few rounds in the war of words, Norman takes a liking to him. Billy brings light into Norman’s darkness. Page’s sweet spontaneous energy, well sprinkled with teen craftiness and sarcasm, is perfect for the role.

The supporting cast gives a solid performance; Brianna Sacry as a nerdy telephone operator, Mark Miranda as the mailman, Christina Humann as Chelsea Thayer, and Rufus Howard as Bill Ray.

When I first saw the set I thought it was too cluttered and crowded. I wondered how the actors would find their way around this fussy interior of a Maine cabin without bumping into the furniture. But as the play progressed, it seemed so obvious that this was the characters’ home. The explosion of fishing equipment, silly hats, and comfy furniture is absolutely perfect for them and their cluttered lives.

The sound effects are mind-blowing. I won’t spoil the surprise by describing them.

On Golden Pond is very funny. The jokes come zinging across the stage and into the audience at warp speed. Highly recommended if you love spending an evening laughing.

Curtain time is 8 p.m. May 10-11 and 17-18 with a 2 p.m. matinee May 12 and 19. Tickets cost $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors at the door. Tickets are available online at The theater is in The Parkway off George Washington Way.

-- Nancy Welliver is a longtime supporter of the arts. She has worked at Hanford as an engineer and is a member of the Camerata Musica organization.

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