On Golden Pond

Hunters Hill Theatre (NSW). Director: Carol Wimmer. Set Design: Elizabeth Chandler. Lighting and Sound Design: Steve Wimmer. March 4 – 19, 2011.

Review by Neil Litchfield,  Stage Whispers Magazine.

On Golden Pond opens on one of those beautifully designed and built sets where you instantly say, yes, I’m there. Not only did the holiday house in Maine, and its furnishings and props, seem perfect, but on a relatively shallow stage the blend of cyclorama art enhanced by lighting established a credible, attractive vista.

When you’re off to such a strong, truthful start, the ambience must help the cast to find the truth of the characters who dwell within the environment. This was something that the Hunters Hill cast achieved in trumps.

Carol Wimmer has directed a gently paced, engaging production, which doesn’t suffer in the least because we know the story thanks to an all-star movie version.

Stephen Snars’ convincing curmudgeonly octogenarian Norman travels a highly truthful personal journey. Jennifer Leslie gets a lovely mix of the loving, yet knowing, wife Ethel. Playwright Ernest Thompson’s dialogue and speech patterns for older characters is spot on, and the delivery of Snars and Leslie never misses a beat.

Leigh Scanlon, as the their daughter Chelsea, gets limited stage time, but has you feeling you know the whole family history. Paul Stzelma plays the simple-minded Charlie Martin absolutely convincingly, where cliché might prevail. Chelsea’s partner Bill gets the briefest opportunity to cut through Norman’s rudeness, but Charles Limpus nails it credibly.

Sasha Sahka absolutely captures Billy, the cocky young boy who cuts through Norman’s crustiness.

Hunters Hill Theatre has developed a lovely old stone church into a warm, intimate raked auditorium, and the cosiness of the space is a particularly comfy fit for the production.

As he bounds downstage for the curtain call, Stephen Snars surprises as he sheds at least a third of the character’s age, testifying to just how convincing his portrayal has been.

Community theatre at its best.



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