New York City Theater
"On Golden Pond"
Theatergoers in the mood for a cuddle might turn to Ernest Thompson's "On Golden Pond, which has the benefit of not only superb acting from the great James Earl Jones but direction by Leonard Foglia that sidesteps the icky sentimentality of the Hepburn-Fonda movie. Maybe it works, also, because it deals with family -- with Norman, his wife Ethel and their estranged daughter who has to deal not only with past and present beaus but the latter's irresistible young son. It's a work of reconciliation and mortality, linking the two with warmth and credibility.
Jones is a consummate actor, too long away from the stage. As Norman, he has tricks up his sleeve - rolling his r's as in "r-r-r-rigatoni," hurling thunderous but variable "No's," subtly hinting at death, making unexpected movements that become playlets of a man refusing to let go of life. It's an heroic performance.
Uggams lets her eyes show the fear that her words won't utter. Brave and compassionate yet strong, she's the family rock, and the actress invests her with heart-tugging tenderness and spirit.
The rest of the cast is superb: Linda Powell (Colin Powell's daughter in real life) has a shiny naturalness as daughter Chelsea, with Alexander Mitchell as a saucy youngster, Peter Francis James as his self-confident father and Craig Bockhorn who gives a beautifully modulated portrait of the local postman.
-- David A. Rosenberg
April 20, 2005