Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Photo courtesy of the Black Rep

Black Rep’s ‘Pond’ Ripples Strong

Himes, Kennedy shine in lead roles

By Marcus Ma’at Atkins

Who can’t ever forget the scene where actress Katherine Hepburn’s character Ethel Thayer, emoting the now infamous line “Norman, you’re my knight and shining armor” lovingly to her husband played by actor Henry Fonda in the Oscar Award winning 1981 film adaptation of the 1979 play, “On Golden Pond” and how real (more like surreal) her emotional sincerity was to him.

Fast forward to 2012 at the Grandel Theatre. The opening weekend of the St Louis Black Repertory Company’s 35th Season. There, Black Rep Artistic Director and Founder and Producing Director Linda Kennedy and Ron Himes respectively portray Ethel and Norman Thayer. And when Kennedy says those iconic lines to Himes, the same sincerity is there as Hepburn's to Fonda.

Directed by award winning mainstay Black Rep director Lorna Littleway, this version of ‘Pond’ of an aging couple going to their summer home to retreat and reflect on their mortality mirrors more of its black adaptation of the 2005 “black adaptation” that was staged on Broadway starring Leslie Uggams and James Earl Jones—with some “soul” idioms and mannerisms added slightly “color” the Waspish overtones of the play.

Littleway didn’t make any major changes to the setting of the “butter milked”Golden Pond, Maine but interestingly, the biggest one, that is ironically a change based on race (knowingly or unknowingly), is the interracial link between actor Aaron Baker’s character Charlie and Kathi Bentley’s Chelsea , the Thayer’s daughter, who once dated in their lifetime. It is not explored, just commented in causal conversation between Ethel and Norman and Charlie saying that she was coming to visit (and when they meet theirs no physical interaction).

But the saving grace of “Pond” is definitely Kennedy and Himes. Their performances give a certain pathos of a long lasting relationship that even draw away from the acting stage (albeit they met while Wash U students in the early 1980s ). Their chemistry is superb as the cantankerous Norman and the endearing Ethel. They give Kevin Kline worthy performances.

Supporting cast members Bentley, Chauncy Thomas as Chelsea’s husband Bill Ray and Chris Cross as the teen son were good in their roles, but the standout is Aaron Baker as the mailman and friend , Charlie (his hearty Ed McMahon laugh alone is hilarious).

There were some weak spots in ‘Pond’ that is worth noting. One is the accents among the characters. Baker, the only white actor in the play, is, oddly, the only one who has a heavy upper East Coast accent while the others in the cast talked without one begging the wonder if the black Thayers lives in Maine or just visits there yearly. Also, “the scene” between the worldly Chelsea and Norman is a bit wooden. When Bentley’s character finalizes her longing to reconnect to her estranged relationship with her father with the iconic I-want-to- be- your-friend line, it appears rushed and unsympathetic. It plays more like an afterthought.

Besides its drawbacks, ‘Pond’ is an entertaining piece dealing with what we all must face—getting old in a culture of fast life and youth. It’s a quiet piece that speaks loudly on the subject that will resonate far beyond after you leave the theater chair.

The Black Rep’s


Thru February 5

Performance Dates and Times: Wed/Thurs @7pm. Fri/Sat @8pm. Sat/Sun @3pm.

Box Office Phone Number: (314) 534 3810

Ticket Price Range: $35-47. 10% discount for seniors and students. Group rates available.

Website: theblackrep.org

Venue: The Grandel, 3610 Grandel Square, St. Louis, 63108


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