On Golden Pond
Veteran Seattle thespians Clayton Corzatte and real life wife Susan Corzatte slip into the roles of irascible, retired professor Norman Thayer, Jr. and his caring but comically caustic wife Ethel with consummate ease. Clayton Corzatte has in recent years made many a small character role stand out at Seattle’s large Equity playhouses, but it is a pleasure to see him carry the leading role. Mr. Corzatte lands every laugh line, and gets more chuckles merely from his takes on what other characters are saying. He makes the moments when Norman is faced with the fragility of his age and his own mortality gently touching and finely orchestrated. Susan Corzatte, who has been wed to Clayton roughly as long as Ethel has to Norman, goes away from the more persnickety portrayal of Ethel that characterized Hepburn’s award winning film role, and in doing so creates a less mannered, more real human being. The role doesn’t afford as many of the play’s laughs as does the role of Norman, but Susan Corzatte speaks volumes with her stage silences and is hilarious when Ethel breaks into her loon calls and old summer camp ditties. Her very real love for her on and offstage spouse informs her delicate unraveling when Ethel thinks she may lose Norman to a heart attack. A younger Seattle and Broadway stage veteran, Jeanne Paulsen offers a well-wrought performance as Chelsea, the Thayer’s needy, eager for acceptance, 42-year-old daughter. The scene in which Paulsen’s Chelsea apologizes to her Father for carrying a chip on her shoulder for so many years is one of the best acted in the entire production.
Teenaged Michael Moore as Billy Ray, the son of Chelsea’s beau (and ultimate husband) who ends up befriending Norman during a stay with the couple on Golden Pond, is likable, natural and unforced, and his apparent lack of awe of the company he is keeping onstage works to the advantage of his performance. Eric Ray Anderson is a jovial delight as the “Old Maid” Mailman who once fancied Chelsea himself, and Jim Gall as Chelsea’s dentist/beau Bill Ray plays very successfully against type, especially in his major scene with Corzatte’s Norman. Director Steitzer helps mitigate the leisurely internal pace of the script with some delicious light slapstick staging of several non-verbal moments, and the play’s built-in gag of the screen door that keeps falling off (a key aspect of Norm Spencer’s authentic and detailed summer cottage setting) is a sure-fire laugh generator.
On Golden Pond runs through Feb. 26 at the Village Theatre, 303 Front St. N. in Issaquah, and March 3-19 at 2710 Wetmore Ave, Everett. Additional information is available at www.villagetheatre.org.