In this case, however, I have few qualms about reporting what I saw in the Black Rep preview. The show looked ready. Jim Burwinkel's set of the Thayers' summer cottage in Maine had all the elements of well-worn rustic charm that such a retreat should have, stuffed with the accumulated treasurers not just of the long lives of Norman and Ethel Thayer themselves but of previous generations of Ethel's family. Nathan Scheuer's lights shifted through the various hours of the summer days. Em Rossi dressed the cabin's inhabitants and visitors in late 1970s vacation attire. Robin Weatherall filled the air with the cries of the lake's loons and other woodland sounds.
A friend commented that he has seen actors closer to the age of the almost-80 Norman Thayer who played that age less convincingly than does the decades-younger Ron Himes. Himes is fully invested in this old grouch who opens himself to others with sly wit and only on his own terms. Linda Kennedy sounds all the chords of his long-suffering wife, the tolerance, the concern, the anxiety, the anger, the all-embracing love. Kathi Bently makes their somewhat estranged daughter richly alive in her ambivalence about herself and her parents. As the daughter's latest and probably best love interest, Chauncy Thomas combines both the man's normal self-assured confidence and his edginess at meeting her parents. Bill Ray plays his tween-age son with an energy that he hasn't yet learned to harness for clear speaking. As a local man who delivers the mail and still treasures the embers of the adolescent flame he carried for the daughter, Aaron Orion Baker punctuates his Maine accent with a frequent laugh that is more defensive tic than joy. Lorna Littleway's unobtrusive direction pulls it all together.
Ernest Thompson's play has been a favorite on both stage and screen, but it's thin over the long haul, and the excessive sweetness isn't really cut by the occasional intimations of mortality or the sudden, ill-motivated surfacing of the daughter's anger at her father.
And having black actors in this play written about a white family in Maine? Not an issue.
If you like warm and cozy, with a few carefully contrived bumps along the way, The Black Rep's On Golden Pond is for you.