Review: On Golden Pond (Scarborough Players)

On Golden Pond is a feel-good story about family, on stage at Scarborough Village Theatre

Playing at the Scarborough Village Theatre, On Golden Pond is a family drama that will make you want to pick up the phone and arrange to see that long-lost dear relative with whom you’ve lost touch. I never saw the 1981 movie, and I was happy to discover this heartfelt story without any expectations. While the program led me to believe that the story would be mostly about the rejuvenating power that the young have over the old, for me, the act of making peace was the most powerful theme. Norman (Chris Hardess) is the grumpy 80-year old father of Chelsea (Kerrie Lamb), and Chelsea’s mother is the patient, loving Ethel (Kathy Tomlinson). Norman and Ethel are pleasantly surprised to have Chelsea come to their lakeside cottage after several years of absence.

Chelsea brings her boyfriend Bill (Greg Nowlan) whom Norman dryly refers to as “the dentist.” Bill’s son is 13-year-old Billy (Fraser Schaffer), and he’s left with the senior couple while Chelsea and Bill go to Europe. ┬áBilly ends up bringing out the best in Norman during his stay, as they go fishing, practise French and use words like “suck face” and “bullshit” which enhance Norman’s vocabulary. This playful and tender relationship contrasts the tense relationship between Norman and his daughter. Chelsea at one point even admits to having been made to feel worthless in Norman’s presence.

The strained father-daughter relationship could have made On Golden Pond a heavy, serious story, but there are so many moments of comedy. The most welcome relief comes from the awkward but sweet Charlie Martin (exceptional Will van der Zyl) who plays the local mailman. His word play is spot on, as if he thinks in puns. Van der Zyl does a marvelous job of portraying a gentle giant who adds warmth and humour with his clumsy body language.

Another element that lightens up the play is the simple piano melodies during the scene changes. It definitely adds nostalgia.

I thought that Hardess and Tomlinson displayed a strong sense of loyalty and complicity. Tomlinson in particular made her character the rock of the family. If we could all be so lucky to have someone as caring as Ethel during the final years of our lives.

On Golden Pond gets my thumbs up for the way it made me feel about peace and second chances, for the gestures of Charlie, and for the family dynamics.


  • On Golden Pond is playing at Scarborough Village Theatre (3600 Kingston Road at the corner of Markham Road)
  • Showtimes: September 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. and September 23 at 2 p.m.
  • Regular tickets are $24 and be purchased at the door or online.
  • There is free parking and the theatre is wheelchair accessible.

Photo of Chris Hardess and Kathrine Tomlinson supplied by the company