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Playhouse welcomes back ‘On Golden Pond’

Among first shows there 10 years ago

POSTED: February 12, 2014 12:30 a.m.
Crystal Ledford/

"On Golden Pond" cast members, from left, Justin Collins, Rich Robertson and Gloria Szokoly rehearse a scene.

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Local actor Justin Collins says he isn’t usually grumpy in real life, but in his current role at the Cumming Playhouse he’s a definite curmudgeon.

Collins has taken on the character of Norman Thayer in Gypsy Theatre Company’s production of “On Golden Pond,” which begins its four-week run at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Shows continue at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday through March 9.

Collins’ character became well-known after the 1981 movie version of the play, in which Henry Fonda portrayed Thayer and Katharine Hepburn his wife, Ethel.

Gloria Szokoly takes on the Hepburn role in the local production. Both she and Collins said it’s difficult to make characters their own when they’ve been portrayed by such famous actors.

“It’s very hard to erase the image of Katharine Hepburn in this role,” Szokoly said. “When I’m trying to get into my character as Ethel, all I can see is Katharine Hepburn and sometimes I want to start talking like her.”

But they’ve both tried to create something unique in their performances.

Collins said Danielle Gustaveson, who is making her directorial debut with the production, has helped guide the actors despite the well-known nature of their characters.

“It’s hard to make it your own and I have to give kudos to the directing because they help us develop it along the lines of the way they want to see it, so it’s not as difficult,” Collins said.

Added Szokoly: “They make us analyze why we’re saying a line in the way we are. And the more you analyze and think about why you’re saying and reacting the way you are, you begin to develop the character.”

While it’s been somewhat challenging, Gustaveson credited the actors for helping her transition to the director’s chair.

“They’ve made the job easy because they’re such a talented cast,” she said.

The play traces the love story of Norman and Ethel, who are returning to their summer home on Golden Pond for the 48th year.

During their stay, the couple is visited by their divorced, middle-aged daughter and her dentist fiancé.

They go off to Europe, leaving her finance’s teenage son behind for the summer. The boy soon becomes the grandchild the elderly couple has longed for.

Gustaveson said the show was one of the first to ever grace the playhouse stage when the facility opened in 2004.

“This is the 10-year anniversary of the playhouse, so I wanted to bring something back from that time,” she said.

In addition, she said the show is just a favorite for many.

“It appeals to everybody,” she said. “It’s a love story, it’s loyalty issues between the mother and daughter and the father and [the mother] being in between. It’s about the mistakes we make along the way and hopefully forgiveness at the end.

“It’s just a beautiful story and there’s something in it for everybody.”

 

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