If your memories of the film “On Golden Pond” are sweetened by a glaze of golden-hued honey, wrap those memories up and put them away.
“I don’t think that is what one will see with our play,” said Gregory Stavrou, who is directing the stage version of “On Golden Pond” at Rochester Civic Theatre. The play opens Friday and runs through May 31.
It would be easy, Stavrou said, to put on a mushy crowd-pleaser that produces not much more than a warm glow. But even the playwright, Ernest Thompson, warned against that tendency in a recent edition of the script, Stavrou said.
“He thought it had become over-sentimental,” Stavrou said.
As Stavrou said, though, “There’s a fair amount of anger in the play. It’s easy to overlook it. There is a lot of humor in it, as well.” Those elements will be brought to the fore. For example, he said, “When there is disagreement and anger, we’re trying to explore that.”
“On Golden Pond” takes place at a New England cabin where retirees Norman and Ethel Thayer have arrived for another summer. Norman is struggling with his memory, and things get a bit complicated when their daughter, Chelsea, arrives with her boyfriend and his son, Billy. Eventually, Billy and Norman form a bond.
“It’s such a real play,” Stavrou said. “It feels very honest. “Golden Pond is like the sort of cabin many of us remember from northern Minnesota, where the whole family would go.”
Stavrou has cast Mary Lambert and newcomer Merritt Olsen as Ethel and Norman, and Logan Ackerman as Billy.
“When I did the auditions, I said, ‘If you haven’t seen the film yet, don’t go see it, so we can explore the play on our own,” said Stavrou. “All of the actors are working very hard to make it their own.”
Stavrou himself has never seen the film, but he has some inkling of the issues addressed in “On Golden Pond.” “My parents are at the same age as Norman and Ethel,” he said. “I see a lot of personal relevance in this.”