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Beloved On Golden Pond retold for fans of Mountain Players
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The Georgia Mountain Players present "On Golden Pond" starting this weekend at the Georgia Mountains Center in Gainesville. - photo by SARA GUEVARA | The Times

‘On Golden Pond’
What: The latest production from the Georgia Mountain Players
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and April 22-23; 2:30 p.m. Sunday and April 24
Where: Georgia Mountains Center Theater, 301 Main St., Gainesville
How much: $16 adults, $12 seniors age 60 and older, students and children
More info: 770-536-4677 or gmplayer@bellsouth.net

The latest production by the Georgia Mountain Players has the group flexing its dramatic muscles, exploring father/daughter relationships and a couple growing older in "On Golden Pond."

But before you start thinking this longtime theater troupe has changed its usually upbeat tune, don’t — the production is actually lighthearted and uplifting, said director Peggy Strickland.

The play is the theatrical version of the story, which was then made into a movie starring Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn and Jane Fonda. And while the original version of the story includes the relationship between the father and his adult daughter — played by Henry and Jane Fonda in the film — it focuses more on the relationship the father, Norman, builds with his daughter’s new stepson, Billy.

"The stage version is a lot more humorous and of course you do have the relationship of the father and the daughter, but it also has a strong focus on the relationship between the married couple — Norman and Ethel — as well as their growing relationship with their daughter’s stepson, Billy," Strickland said.

In the Mountain Players’ production, Billy is played by Austin Ferguson, 12, who has brought a whole other dimension to rehearsals, Strickland said.

A Dacula resident, Austin has some stage experience and has made some of his own changes to the script, tweaking it to better represent what a boy might say.

The group, which is made up of mainly middle-aged actors, has enjoyed having Austin around, Strickland said.

"To steal a line from the play, it’s a shot in the arm to have this young kid and his enthusiasm," she said. "He’s added some very good ideas to the play. ... It’s been really fun to watch his interactions and growth, especially with Mike Martin, who plays Norman."

Along with Martin, Linda Smith plays his wife, Ethel; Rhonda Brown is their daughter, Chelsea; Brown’s husband, Cleve Brown, plays Chelsea’s fiance and Josh Thompson is the mailman.

Thompson’s role is a departure from the usual characters he plays, Strickland said, since Thompson usually fills the role of "the bad guy."

"He’s playing the mailman, Charlie, who is just delightful," she said. "So it’s fun to see a different side of him on the stage."

"On Golden Pond" is in the same vein as productions such as "Foxfire" and "Steel Magnolias," she said, where the show might not be full-on comedy — but it’s certainly not dour.

More importantly, she said, it’s a show with heart.

"We’ve done ‘Foxfire’ and ‘Steel Magnolias,’ which were a little departure from the silly comedies, or the musical comedies," she said. "And we enjoyed it, but more importantly, the audience responded well, too.

"We love finding shows with a heart, which this one does."

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