James Whitmore tours in 'On Golden Pond'

Ernest Thompson's "On Golden Pond" offers two skillful actors marvelous vehicles. For audiences, it offers a delightful evening (or afternoon) in the theater.

It is a sweet, unpretentious play about an aging couple facing up to the possibility of no more summers on Golden Pond, where they have been coming together as a family for 45 years. The insights are genuine and touching without being maudlin or morbid.And the wit is enormous.

The play had a run on Broadway, and is now on tour starring James Whitmore and Sada Thompson.This production, on a reduced version of Steve Rubin's wonderfully Maine bungalow set, is still directed by Craig Anderson, and, therefore, still retains the utter simplicity and direct candor of the Broadway original.

James Whitmore plays Norman Thayer, the near-octogenarian who is trying not to act his age, and Miss Thompson plays his wife, Ethel, the younger, spryer Ethel, who realizes she must face up to certain eventualities herself. Mr. Whitmore has a field day as Norman, making him perhaps a bit too dottery at times, but suffusing the part with warmth and humor. Miss Thompson's Ethel is a tat too sprightly and reserved, especially in the final scene where we must feel a connection to the deepest, most profound of fear and emotion. Nonetheless, she has some marvelous scenes, particularly those with her daughter, and she is, throughout, (as always) a marvelous artist.

Eric Brown, a most gifted young actor, is particularly convincing as the 14 -year-old Billy. The wonderful contrast between Billy's youthful impetuosity and Thayer's aging crotchetiness (which gives way altogether in the face of Billy's vigor) works particularly well here with young Mr. Brown and the fei sty Mr. Whitmore.

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