It's difficult not to think of Hollywood icons Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn when discussing “On Golden Pond.” The 1981 movie adaptation of Ernest Thompson's play was an enormous success, winning Oscars and coming in second that year at the box office only to “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
Filling the roles once so famously played by legends might seem a daunting task for most actors, but luckily for Richmond audiences Joe Inscoe and Kelly Kennedy have the skill to pull it off.
The play begins with the Thayers, an elderly couple summering for their 48th year at their family cabin in Maine. With his shuffling feet and Parkinsoned hands, Inscoe's portrayal of octogenarian Norman deftly balances the humor and crotchety nature of his character. Kennedy is delightful as Norman's wife, Ethyl, who's grown accustomed to her husband's eccentricities and fascination with death.
The strongest moments in this production — seen in a dress rehearsal — are usually when only the two of them are onstage. When other characters are added to the mix, the play loses some steam. Frank Creasy's portrayal of mailman Charlie includes a New England accent so odd it's distracting.
The scenes with the Thayers' estranged daughter, Chelsea (Jill Bari Steinberg), don't always click, but maybe more performances will correct this. Playing the teenager who comes to live with the Thayers is Eric Pastore, whose performance suffers from the actor's knowing just how cute he is.
Terrie and David Powers' cabin set is gorgeous, and Sue Griffin's costumes are perfectly WASP-ish. For all the bells and whistles that a play can haul out to tell a story, the key to “On Golden Pond” is simplicity and the ability for the audience to relate to its indelible characters. S
“On Golden Pond” plays Thursdays-Sundays through Aug. 29 at Hanover Tavern. Tickets are $38, and can be purchased at barksdalerichmond.org or by calling 282-2620.