By Billy Tuite —
The Menomonie Theater Guild kicks off their 56th season this October with their production of Ernest Thompson’s 1978 off-Broadway comedy-drama, “On Golden Pond.”
The play follows Ethel and Norman Thayer, an elderly couple, as they visit their summer cabin by Golden Pond in Maine for the 48th consecutive year. On the verge of Norman’s 80th birthday, they are visited by their divorced middle-daughter, Chelsea, and her fiancé, Bill Ray. Norman struggles to maintain a loving relationship with his daughter, but he readily takes in her fiancé’s son as the grandson he never had. What ensues is a strengthening and straining of relationships within this oftentimes dysfunctional family.
Melissa Smith-Tourville is making her directorial debut with this production of “On Golden Pond.” She chose this play because it serves as “a sweet reminder of how we all have an element of dysfunction and we all are able to come together in spite of ourselves.”
“I just love the show and the story,” Smith-Tourville added. “In a short period of two hours, you get to see this beautiful transformation of people that you wouldn’t expect to see change so dramatically.”
The rest of the cast shares this sentiment, including Jeanne Kussrow-Larson, a veteran actress who has performed in three other productions of “On Golden Pond.”
“Quite frankly, I haven’t done a lot of theater lately because there aren’t any shows I really want to do, but I would swim the ocean to come here and do ‘On Golden Pond,’” Kussrow-Larson said. “It’s such a wonderful show.”
Another attraction to this production is that it features a close-knit cast of just six performers. This small ensemble contains a tremendous amount of diversity, from a retired Stout professor, to a Colfax middle school student, to a professional actress from the west coast.
“I just moved here from California and I only knew about the audition the day before it started,” said Nicholette Routhier, who is playing the part of Chelsea. “I saw a role that was in my age range and I ended up getting the part!”
With such a cohesive, committed group of actors under her direction, Smith-Tourville set out to produce a play that really accentuates the feelings of the characters.
“As any director does, I took some of my own spin and I really dove into more of the emotion of the play,” Smith-Tourville said. “My unique spin involved working with the characters and finding the emotion within themselves.”
Indeed, “On Golden Pond” runs a whole gamut of emotions. The cast is quick to point out that despite the dramatic, somber moments of the play, audiences will be crying from laughter as well.
“Not only does it have the emotion and drama; it’s also very funny,” Kussrow-Larson said. “We crack ourselves up all the time.”
No matter how it makes audiences feel, everyone, even Stout students, are sure to find something to enjoy about this play.
“I think Stout students will find immense joy in seeing this family engage and interact,” Smith-Tourville said. “The reality of the things that happen within families will be very relatable to all viewers.”
“On Golden Pond” will be playing in the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts on Oct. 17, 18, 24 and 25 at 7:30 p.m., with matinee showings at 2 p.m. on Oct. 18, 19, 25 and 26. To purchase tickets, go to menomonietheaterguild.com or call 715-231-7529.