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On Golden Pond: pitch perfect production

On Golden Pond: pitch perfect production

Returning to their Maine cottage on Golden Pond for their 48th summer, Norman Thayer Jr. (played by Pat Larkin) and his wife Ethel (Colleen Simm), step into a pool of memories. The well-appointed set at the Mount Tabor Theatre represents a single room, stocked with well-worn board games, well-read books, and faded photographs.

The couple seems as well-worn in as the board games, but not quite as readable as the books. They know one another’s habits from half a century of life together, but do they know one another?

Vain, self-centred, and demanding, the formidable Norman, an English professor, enjoys wit and passes judgment — generally both at once — as a matter of habit. Ethel, a decade younger than Norman’s 80 years, is a frustrated but warm and loving companion who ends up doing a lot of the heavy lifting.

Norman spends considerable time literally gazing into the mirror, a habit that reflects his ironic view of the world — and his detachment from others. His sense of things is not common, nor does it always make sense. Signs of elderly forgetfulness reveal themselves, and a new restlessness indicates that he is searching for something. His wit fuels the play with many comic moments; one-liners are delivered by Mr. Larkin in the laconic manner of Jimmy Stewart. The slightly dim-witted but genuine Charlie the mailman (Tom Higginbottom) comes for coffee and offers comic fodder. The single set with multiple doors also allows for farcical entries and exits — generally people missing each other.

Haimish Hunter as Billy. (Karen Valihora/Gazette Staff)

The play is more than a comedy, though. It attends to the fact that its characters talk more than they listen. On occasion, the aging Norman must stop to acknowledge his cracking façade. Director Cheryl Singer has paced the dialogue to create sudden silences, allowing recognition, leading to reconciliation.

The arrival of Ethel and Norman’s estranged daughter, Chelsea (Liz Simpson), reveals the tensions the arrogant Norman has fostered and Ethel ignored. Ms. Simpson does a good job with Chelsea, erring on the side of understatement while making her discomfort palpable.

Chelsea brings a new boyfriend, Bill (Adam McGowan), and his thirteen-year-old son, Billy (Haimish Hunter). Her trepidation about introducing them are pronounced, and justified. Norman proceeds to torment Bill, but draws an unexpected response.

Bill and Chelsea leave Billy behind for the summer, and a relationship develops between the old man and the boy which restores something lost. Restoration and recognition are the themes here. Subtle as they are, they are beautifully wrought by PECT’s accomplished group of actors.

Mr. Larkin and Ms. Simm in the leading roles carry the play; both are  on stage from start to finish. Each establishes character by means of gesture, accent and gait, but also manage to convey something ineffable together, a sense of endurance. When more characters are on stage, body language and blocking become a shorthand signifier of emotional dynamics. Each character has their moment, but is subordinate to the relationship between Norman and Ethel. The younger generations present a reality principle that the older couple both acknowledge — and defy.

It all makes for a production both funny and moving. Haimish Hunter is memorable as Billy, the 13-year-old who teaches this would-be grandfather some new words.

On Golden Pond continues Friday through Sunday. Visit for more information.



PECT returns to Mt. Tabor with The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble

PECT returns to Mt. Tabor with The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble

A Beth Graham production about the nature of mother-daughter relationships and the onset of mental illness is the latest offering by the Prince Edward Community Theatre group.

According to Director Bill McMahon, The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble is a memory play about the loss of memory.

The play is set in a kitchen, of course. It focuses on matriarch Bernice Trimble. Her husband has recently died and her three adult children display some well-worn character traits — ones audience members will recognize. Sarah, the eldest, wears her heart on her sleeve and has no problem speaking her mind. Peter, the youngest, is very private and withdrawn. Iris, the middle child, lies somewhere in between. She identifies with both of her siblings and can also get wildly frustrated with them. Above all, everyone is contradictory.

“The play isn’t about the disease or about the decision that Bernice makes. It’s about exploring the mother-daughter relationship, a wonderfully rich and complicated one,” Mr. McMahon states. “It begins with that relationship and then the rest of the family emerges, and we see the family from the middle child’s, Iris’s, perspective.”

The play is far from a simple exploration of a disease that pervades society; it also tackles the thorny issue of assisted suicide.

“The piece doesn’t take sides in the debate, even though the character Bernice is crafted into such an appealing person. We all love her at the end of the play. We love her hearty laugh. We love her wisdom. But, that doesn’t make it okay. There is still a strong lingering doubt over her decision and whether or not it is a selfish one,” he said.

The production stars Hilary Fennell, Lenni Stewart, Trisha Lawson and Carter Purtelle.

The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble plays in Milford at the Mt. Tabor Playhouse June 17,18, 23, 24 and 25.


PECT offers Sweet Delilah Swim Club starting April 15

PECT offers Sweet Delilah Swim Club starting April 15

Winter may have held on a little longer this season but the Prince Edward Community Theatre group are promising a welcome dose of warmer weather their their latest production Sweet Delilah Swim Club.

This beautifully written, taut play by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten tells the story of five members of a championship women’s swim team who gather each year at the same beach cottage, the Sweet Delilah on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, to catch up, have fun and stick their noses in each other’s lives.

The ride through those decades is a fabulous journey as their lives and careers evolve, husbands come and go, or linger, health issues begin to surface and their friendships overcome the usual challenges related to jealousy, misunderstandings and romances.

Hosted at Mount Tabor Playhouse, one of Prince Edward County’s most beloved and venerable venues, the comedy features five theatrical veterans in Cheryl Singer, Lesley Snyder, Paulina McMahon, Susie Mitchell and Lynne Donovan.

PECT Producer Mike Writes promises this performance will provide a great night out for those who have been cooped up too long during the dregs of the last few years of maybe even a classic ‘Girls night out’ that is sure to have side splitting laughter all the way through the evening.

“We’re excited to offer this Deb Smith-directed production opening April 15 at 7:30 p.m.” Trites said.”The last few years have been tough on all of us putting on live performances so it’s with great enthusiasm we present Sweet Delilah Swim Club.”

The show runs April 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23 with the 16 and 23 dates as 2 p.m. matinees.

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