Saturday, July 20, 2013


Ten years ago this month, The Guthrie presented a new stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride And Prejudice”.

I never saw that production—my middle brother and I were traveling in Europe most of that summer—and my parents never bothered to see the 2003 production.

A week ago, The Guthrie opened yet another production of “Pride And Prejudice”, in a different adaptation. I am puzzled that The Guthrie has returned to the material after so brief an interlude. “Pride And Prejudice” has never cried out for a stage presentation—and “Pride And Prejudice” certainly does not warrant two expensive productions by the same company a decade apart.

Critical notices for the current production of “Pride And Prejudice” have now appeared. Reading between the lines, as one must do in the Twin Cities (since negative reviews are banned here), I think it is obvious the reviewers do not consider the production a success.

People who have seen the production have not been impressed, either. They say the production is unstylish, unsubtle if not ham-handed, and unworthy of a great theater. “More Neil Simon than Jane Austen” is how a colleague described the production.

I think we shall have to take a pass.


I have never understood the appeal of Ernest Thompson’s “On Golden Pond”.

The play is not well-constructed, the play is not well-written, the play’s message is maudlin. The author covers well-trodden ground without freshness and without insight (and without much skill). Is there a more over-exposed sentimental commercial comedy?

Bloomington Civic Theatre recently opened a new production of “On Golden Pond”, and I think we shall have to strike “On Golden Pond” from our list, too. We cannot summon enthusiasm for the venture.

In 1979, my parents caught one of the first performances of “On Golden Pond” on Broadway, only days after opening night.

“On Golden Pond” had received mostly pans from the New York critics, and to this day my parents are clueless why they chose to see “On Golden Pond” instead of something else.

I should add that my parents LOVED the original production of “On Golden Pond”. My parents insist that Frances Sternhagen and Tom Aldredge were overwhelming as Ethel and Norman, and that the two actors gave the performances of their lives.

Apparently early performances of “On Golden Pond” on Broadway were played with a very hard edge. There was a lot of “bite” in the production, and an undercurrent of nastiness, and a brittle toughness to the characters that audiences found off-putting.

Over the course of that first Broadway run, sentimentality seeped into the production—and one unintended consequence was that the play at last found an audience and was able to enjoy a respectable run. However, the onset of sentimentality basically ruined whatever drama was hidden in the material—and “On Golden Pond” has generally been played as sentimental slop ever since.

This unfortunate practice probably has been reinforced by the weepy and unwatchable film version: audiences now expect a stage presentation to be as gooey as the film.

I am not confident there is anything salvageable in “On Golden Pond”. In any case, as we are not in a frame of mind to sit through the thing, we will not be in a position to find out whether BCT can reveal hitherto unrevealed depths in the play.

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