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New show by Theatre in the Grove puts the 'fun' in 'dysfunctional'

'On Golden Pond' debuts in Forest Grove Friday

COURTESY PHOTO - Ethel (Anita Zijdemans Boudreau) and Norman (Joe Silver) meet Chelseas (Patti Speight) new boyfriend Bill (Jason Weed) and his son Billy (Sam Dennis) in Theatre in the Grove's production of 'On Golden Pond,' premiering June 3 at 7:30 p.m.Theatre in the Grove will premiere “On Golden Pond” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 3 in its venue at 2028 Pacific Ave.

Written by playwright Ernest Thompson in 1979, the plot focuses on aging and retired couple Ethel and Norman Thayer (played by Anita Zijdemans Boudreau and Joseph Silver), who spend each summer at their home on a lake called Golden Pond. They are visited by daughter Chelsea (played by Patti Speight) with her fiancé Billy Ray (Jason Weed) and his son Billy Ray Jr. (Sam Dennis). Fred Sherrill also stars as Charlie.

The play explores the often turbulent relationship the young woman shared with her father growing up, and the difficulties faced by a couple in the twilight years of a long marriage, giving audiences a unique insight into modern family life.

“It’s a nostalgic, family comedy drama,” said director Gavin Knittle. “There’s no bad guy ... there are snapshots of life.”

Knittle, who graduated from Pacific University in 2013 — double majoring in theater and music and minoring in literature — was contacted by TITG with a list of shows. Knittle chose “On Golden Pond” because he felt his background matched up with the play.

“It’s been a nice way for me to flex my skill set, and I’ve loved seeing the actors grow emotionally,” he said.

The play itself is a more intimate one. Featuring just six characters, it shows good examples of relationships experiencing hiccups, and offers audiences important life lessons, such as being kind to others while it’s still possible.

“It really puts the ‘fun’ in ‘dysfunctional,’” said Speight. “It brought out stuff from my own personal life — we could relate to these characters.”

The characters themselves are tropes of people that exist in all families. Because of this, Knittle and company wanted to give audiences something real.

“I had them do things more naturally, slower than movies and other things,” he said, referring to lines and actions in the scenes.

A big challenge the crew has faced since beginning rehearsals in March was how many times Thompson had re-written the play. The edition of the script for these performances was his half attempt at making it contemporary.

“We tried to make it more contemporary, but it ended up being impossible, since Thompson kept a lot of 70’s slang in there,” Knittle said of the 1980s setting. “This was before caller ID [and] before star 69.”

But Knittle assures that the classic American work is every bit as touching, warm and witty today as when it debuted on Broadway in 1979.