The 1981 movie, On Golden Pond, starring Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn and Jane Fonda was an enormous success critically and at the box office. It was nominated for ten Oscars, received three, and was seen by millions. The movie was based on a 1979 Broadway play that remains a popular theater classic, and is the Purple Rose Theatre’s summer offering, opening on June 21 and running through September 1.
Michelle Mountain, a long time favorite of Purple Rose audiences for her many stage appearances there, will be off stage this time and will direct this production.
Everybody’s seen the movie. How is the play different?
Mountain: Here’s the funny thing. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the whole movie. And now I don’t want to look because I don’t want to subconsciously, or even consciously, repeat it. Our job is to find our own way through the story. I think the text itself is pretty darn close, from what I remember seeing bits of the movie years ago. Of course, we don’t go swimming, we won’t have a boat, and she can’t do the belly flop thing.
Katherine Hepburn diving into the lake?
Yes, I think that the biggest difference is that we don’t have Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda. (Laughter) But the script is strong enough that while Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda were mega stars in their known right, the story coming through Jan Radcliff and John Peakes, (former Artistic Director and founder of the Boarshead Theatre) is the same story coming through Miss Hepburn and Mr. Fonda. I think the best difference between the play and the movie is that in the play they are right in front of you, so it’s a shared experience in 3D. The movie is wonderful but I think there’s going to be a beauty in seeing this story that most people are probably going to know pretty well, but breathing it with the actors going through it.
Jane Fonda bought this script specifically so her father and she could play it because it had resonances to their relationship.
What I think the play is about is Norman who is basically done, or thinks he’s done, and then this kid shows up and rejuvenates all of them. This play isn’t an ending. It’s a beginning. It’s a second beginning for all of them. Despite the fact that we know Norman may not be around much longer.
He knows it too, and yet he makes those plans to go to California. They’re acknowledging it and still continuing.
The two boys who we double cast in the role of Billy are 14, and Mr. Peakes, who is playing Norman, is in his seventies. That excites me more than anything. We get to learn about the play, but we’ll learn about each other and ourselves through doing it. The process of rehearsing the play is actually what the play is about. It’s that multi-generational connection that allows everyone to blossom.
On Golden Pond run at the Purple Rose Theatre, 137 Park St., Chelsea, from June 21 through September 1. Tickets are $25-$40. For more information, call 734-433-7673 or visit www.purplerosetheatre.org