Jun 11, 2009 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
B’ville Theatre Guild play tickles the funny-bone yet touches the heart
Acting requires courage, the courage to crawl inside the skin of a stranger.
For the past quarter-century local actor Tom Minion has donned the masks of heroes and villains and the occasional oddball. His roles have been many and varied, running the spectrum from a classical Van Helsing in Dracula to an offbeat transvestite husband in Looking for Normal.
2007 was a banner year for Minion who excelled as the arrogant Eminence Bernard Cardinal Law in Sin: A Cardinal Deposed in April and played Sam, a man who may or may not be a pedophile, in the film thriller, Clay.
Minion’s chameleon-like ability to embody a wide range of characters serves him well in his current role as the ever-irascible octogenarian Norman Thayer in Baldwinsville Theatre Guild’s production of On Golden Pond, directed by Bryan Allen Jones. On the surface, Norman’s just a cranky old coot, but Minion manages to show may more sides of the aging cynic.
Minion’s Norman is a man with a temper tempered by flashes of tenderness. When the situation calls for it, Minion offers up confusion, pathos and love. Even though Norman won’t admit he has such feelings, Minion makes the audience see that he certainly does.
In case you missed the 1981 movie version of Ernest Thompson’s stage play, the Henry Fonda-Kate Hepburn swan song that won 10 Academy Awards, here’s the basic plot:
Thayer, a retired professor, and his somewhat younger wife, Ethel, have summered at a cottage on Golden Pond, in Maine, for 48 years. This summer their estranged daughter, Chelsea, returns to celebrate Norman’s 80th birthday. She and her fianc (c), a dentist, are heading to Europe but will return in a few weeks to pick up the fianc (c)’s son, Billy. When she returns, Chelsea is married and her stepson is enjoying the kind of relationship with Norman that she’d always craved in vain.
While there’s a hint of Fonda in some of Minion’s mannerisms (e.g. his cackling exclamation, “Good God!”), B.J. Newsome’s ebullient Ethel is nothing like Hepburn’s nervous portrayal. Newsome’s Ethel is as earthy as the loons on the lake and totally devoted to Norman.
As daughter Chelsea, Aileen Kenneson seems a bit too laid back. More intensity would’ve better captured Chelsea’s long-held bitterness about her father. On the other hand, Kenneson and Newsome’s scene in which mother and daughter have a heart-to-heart is one of the play’s emotional highlights.
Though they have fewer lines, four supporting cast members make major contributions to this impressive production, one of BTG’s recent best. Jay Burris plays the fianc (c) with just the right mix of milquetoast and machismo.
Alec Funicello overflows with youthful enthusiasm as the stepson who surprisingly cracks Norman’s morbid fa ade. The 14-year-old Manlius Pebble Hill actor has a natural way with a line and a smile to melt the coldest heart.
Lee LeManche, a big teddy bear of a man, plays Charlie, the lake’s mailman who had a youthful crush on Chelsea. LeManche’s mailman is so likeable that it’s easy to forget he should have a downeast accent. Oh well, at least Korrie Strodel’s telephone operator sounds like a Maine native!
Will Norman finally find his way back to old Town Road? Will father and daughter finally communicate? Will Billy finish The Count of Monte Cristo or simply “suck face”?
For the answers, you’ve got to see this show. You’ll be glad you did.
On Golden Pond runs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday June 12, 13, 19 and 20, and at 3 p.m. Sunday June 14 and 21, at the Presbyterian Education Center, 64 Oswego St. Tickets cost $15, or $12 for students, and $12 for seniors on June 14 and 21; 635-7382.
‘Golden’ is gorgeous
Community theater lacks the resources to create flashy sets and stage effects. But that doesn’t mean its accoutrements have to be lacking.
Take the set design for BTG’s On Golden Pond created by Gregg Bilyeau with help from Peter Gray, Amada Porter, Steve Borek and the show’s cast and crew. The setting is the simple living room of a summer cottage in Maine, but it’s picture perfect, with Adirondack-style furniture, birch branch stair-railings, a willow wicker chair and fieldstone fireplace.
Best yet is painter Janet Heath’s backdrop of the misty lake framed by pine-dappled hills. Heath, a 2003 graduate of SUNY Fredonia, is a scenic painter for Albany’s Capital Repertory Theatre.
Lighting effects shone on Heath’s atmospheric backdrop suggest day and night and rain or shine thanks to BTG technical director Sam Barbuto and lighting assistants Nick Augello and Sandie Stage.
And sound techs Jason Maurer, Nancy Platz and Kim Jakway bring the lake alive with the yodel of the loons.
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