Friday, April 08, 2005

"On Golden Pond" opening night

James Earl Jones is a great actor and a commanding live-stage presence. This must be said as he seems most recently to be known only as a good pitchman for the phone company and of course as the owner of a legendary voice. He still uses that voice to great effect in On Golden Pond -- which opened last night at the Cort -- most memorably as he's parroting his 13-year-old soon-to-be grandson in the play: "Are you bulllll-****ing me?" Unfortunately, because of where we were sitting (in the balcony) or because he was slightly mumbling, some of Jones' biggest laugh lines were lost on us (but not on most of the audience), because we couldn't quite hear what he was saying.

But this was a small matter, and the overall play -- about habits that die hard, seasonal habits worth keeping and the general sadness (and joy) of getting older -- keeps things light throughout, even with death knocking about backstage. Morbid (but not meanly morbid) humor is Jones' character Norman's favorite kind, but even as he jokingly warns of his always impending departure, he starts to give in to the humor in all the things that are the opposite of death. There is drama sprinkled amid the laughs, but it doesn't weigh down the action very much, and the play putters along at a good clip. Having never seen previous versions of the play (or the 1981 movie with Hepburn and Fonda), I'm not sure how much needed to be updated for both the times or the race (this production includes a nearly all black cast), but as Brantley points out, the end result feels very fresh.

1 comment:

B said...

I read in a review somewhere on line that, according to the author, the play had been trimmed, but not otherwise changed.