BWW Review: ON GOLDEN POND is Heartwarming at The Redhouse at City Center

BWW Review: ON GOLDEN POND is Heartwarming at The Redhouse at City Center
L-R Jan Radcliff and Fred Grandy in The Redhouse production of On Golden Pond. Photo by Genevieve Fridley .

Devotion, passion, and drive are just some of the words that come to mind when I think of The Redhouse, "a nonprofit, multi-arts organization dedicated to the production and presentation of interdisciplinary works, theatre, music and visual art." The Redhouse has become a large part of the theatre scene within the Central New York area and it now has a new location at Syracuse, NY's City Center, just a few blocks away from its starter home. The Redhouse may have moved on to a larger venue with three performing spaces, but the heart is still very much there. What better way to open a new space than with the touching, entertaining, and heartwarming production of Ernest Thompson's On Golden Pond, brilliantly directed by Vincent J. Cardinal.

On Golden Pond is a 1979 play by Ernest Thompson that was made into a film in 1981 starring Katherine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, and Jane Fonda. It takes place at Ethel (Jan Radcliff) and Norman Thayer's (Fred Grandy) summer home right near a lake called Golden Pond. The aging couple is enjoying their home on Golden Pond for the summer once again when their daughter Chelsea (Marya Grandy) comes to visit with her dentist fiancé, Bill Ray (John Bixler) and his son, Billy Ray (Justin Dunn). Returning to the Golden Pond brings up some less than pleasant emotions for Chelsea. She and Bill Ray take off to Europe, leaving Billy Ray to stay with Ethel and Norman on Golden Pond. Ethel and Norman very quickly treat Billy Ray as the "grandson" they never had. Norman teaches Billy Ray about fishing and good books, while Ethel has the chance to bake the best Toll House cookies for the young boy. Billy Ray teaches Norman some slang teen terms. That summer the Thayer family learn a lot about their relationships with each other and become even closer as a family.

The production benefits from some first-rate acting.

Fred Grandy, best known for his role as Gopher on the hit television series "The Love Boat," dazzles the audience with his comedic charm and wit as Norman Thayer - the spunky and quick tongued retired professor that is, at times, suffering from some memory loss. Grandy captures the life, heart, and spunk of Norman perfectly. His line delivery is very natural and he has the audience eating up his performance, even in the simplest moments such as when his character tries on a number of fishing hats (Raven Ong designed the costumes) hanging on the coat rack. He is a true professional that knows his craft and steals the spotlight with his every move, line, and facial expression.

Jan Radcliff plays opposite Grandy and has wonderful chemistry with him. She is both charming and spunky as Ethel Thayer, Norman's loving wife. Radcliff is especially amusing as she pokes fun at how long it may take Norman to fix some things around the house, even a screen door that is constantly falling down. She also truly captures the love that Ethel has for Golden Pond and the memories she's made over many years. It's clear from her performance that Ethel delights in the simple things such as watching the loons on the lake or picking a bucket of berries.

Marya Grandy portrays Chelsea Thayer Wayne, the middle-aged daughter, with confidence, charm, and charisma. It's a real treat to her perform with her father Fred Grandy. The chemistry between them is very natural.

Michael J. Farina plays Charlie Martin, the postman and Chelsea's former boyfriend. He is comedic, likeable, and incredibly memorable in the role. Farina plays off his fellow actors beautifully.

John Bixler as, is highly amusing as Bill Ray, Chelsea's fiancé, especially when he discusses the sleeping arrangements for the visit to Golden Pond with Norman. The entire conversation between Norman and Bill is a highlight of the production.

Local child actor Justin Dunn portrays the young Billy Ray very naturally. He holds his own next to the far more experienced professionals on stage. His line delivery is clear and confident and his comedic timing is excellent.

The technical elements are also stellar.

The impressive scenic design by Tim Brown takes the audience into Ethel and Norman's lovely home. The intricate and detailed set includes everything from staircase to a fireplace with a deer head hanging above. It makes perfect use of the new stage space the Redhouse now has.

The new space also has an impressive acoustics and the sound design by Anthony Vadala allows for the show to be heard easily. Marie Yokoyama's lighting design ensures easy scene transitions.

The Redhouse's production of On Golden Pond is an absolute must-see that's bound to resonate with many ages. The play marks the opening of the new space at Redhouse so don't miss this special production for a truly special theatre that is full of heart.

Running time: Approximately two hours with one fifteen-minute intermission.

On Golden Pond runs through March 18, 2018 at the Redhouse Arts Center, 400 S. Salina Street, Syracuse, NY 13202. For tickets and information, call 315.362.2785 or click here.

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From This Author Natasha Ashley

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