The director said working on the play has 'been like old home week.'
By GUY D'ASTOLFO
VINDICATOR ENTERTAINMENT WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Bob Gray and Lynn Nelson Rafferty have an "I love him to death, but I might have to kill him [or her]" camaraderie that can only come from working side-by-side for decades in the theater trenches.
And they have.
The veterans of The Youngstown Playhouse have gotten together again after a 10 year-hiatus to stage "On Golden Pond" at the Glenwood Avenue theater. The play opens Sept. 15 and will run for three weekends.
Gray, who was director-in-residence at the Playhouse from 1974-88, has come to Youngstown from his Grand Rapids, Mich., home to direct the play.
Rafferty, of Columbiana, acted in dozens of plays at the Playhouse before leaving in 1997 for the New Castle Playhouse. She plays the lead role of Ethel Thayer.
Joe Scarvell, yet another Playhouse regular from way back who has worked with Rafferty and Gray on dozens of plays, has the part of Norman Thayer, Ethel's husband.
"There is a great deal of experience in working with each other in this play," said Gray. "It's been like old home week."
Rafferty noted that she has worked with Scarvell and Gray more than any other actor or director in her decades-long stage career.
How it started
When Gray was directing "Move Over, Mrs. Markham" last season at the Playhouse, Executive Director John Holt asked him if he'd like to come back this season to direct "Pond," and Gray accepted. He had directed "Pond" once before at the Playhouse, in the '70s.
Gray has high praise for Rafferty.
"She is a dream actress. She takes direction like a dream," he said. But after pausing for thought, he arched an eyebrow at his leading lady and added " ... although she did do this show once before and she might have some preconceived notions that I might have to change... ."
Mock anger aside, it's obvious the two share a genuine affection and have great respect for each other's ability. It's a combination of off-stage intangibles that can only serve to elevate a relationship-type play such as "Pond."
The play and the movie
Written by Ernest Thompson in 1979, "On Golden Pond" played on Broadway for more a year. The movie version, starring Jane and Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn, came out in 1981 and garnered three Academy Awards (including the only one Henry Fonda ever received).
Although the movie is somewhat dark, both Nelson Rafferty and Gray pointed out that the Playhouse production will be lighter and is more of a comedy.
"It's amusing and charming, and has warmth," said Gray, who calls it a family show.
All of the action in the play takes place in the Thayer family cottage on Golden Pond in Maine over the course of a summer.
During the five-scene play, Mr. and Mrs. Thayer are visited by their divorced daughter, Chelsea (played by Lois Schneider) her newly divorced fianc & eacute;, Bill (Bill Rees), and his son, Billy (Dylan White). "We become grandparents for the first time when they visit," noted Rafferty.
Chelsea attempts to finally close the emotional gap she has with her father, while Billy must deal with his parents' divorce and changing relationships.
Norman Thayer, meanwhile, is contending with age and fading memory.
David Schneider plays the part of Charlie, the mailman.
Stage manager is John Pecano, while Garry and Johnna Clark are in charge of props. Jim Lybarger is the set designer.