11/12/12 3:59pm
11/12/2012 3:59 PM
The "On Golden Pond" cast, from left: Noah Ludlow, Thomas Cardisco, Rusty Kransky, Che Sabalja, Marion Stark and Bill Kitzerow.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO
The “On Golden Pond” cast, from left: Noah Ludlow, Thomas Cardisco, Rusty Kransky, Che Sabalja, Marion Stark and Bill Kitzerow.

What is more pleasant than visiting a glimmering pond in the woods, pinkish at dawn, golden all the afternoon and russet at dusk? Its placid surface seems created for contemplation.

In 1978, a 27-year-old Ernest Thompson used such a setting for his pleasant, placid play that he surprisingly titled “On Golden Pond.” It is a lovely play, as unsurprising as its title and it is given a lovely, unsurprising presentation at North Fork Community Theatre in Mattituck.

Aristotle said drama depends on plot, but many distinguished people dispute him. There is no plot in “On Golden Pond.” It is all character and ingratiating conversation.

The father, Norman Thayer, is a crusty, crotchety senior, suspicious of foreigners (especially Jews), but as well played by Rusty Kransky, his tongue-in-cheek sharp wit allows him to get away with it — or did 34 years ago when the play was first produced.

Ethel, his honest and sensible wife, is played by Marion Stark with abundant good humor and charm. In one of the sweetest moments of the play, while Thayer is busy insulting people to keep them at a distance, Ethel tells him, “You are the sweetest man in the world and I am the only one who knows it.”

Their daughter, Chelsea, beautifully played by Che Sabalja, calls her father Norman, but her mother Mom. She complains gently that her father never made any close contact with her. When she comes for a visit, she brings her fiancé, honestly played by Tom Cordisco, and her prospective stepson, 10-year-old Billy, well played by Noah Ludlow.

The youngster is the one who finally thaws Thayer’s heart to genuine affection and Norman learns to live anew. This may sound like TV-style tidiness, but the audience is charmed and cheered by it. The director, Robert Horn, and the cast escape a disastrous dive into what one critic called “the deep end of weepitude.”

Whatever the play, brand new or a classic, an actor’s greatest magic is the ability to surprise. The turns an actor’s emotions can take, the waves of nostalgia a line washes over us, a scene nudging a memory or two of our own — these are the actors’ secret weapons. At one point in the play, Ethel and Chelsea surprise and elate us by breaking into an old camp song. It comes seemingly out of nowhere with utter naturalness. Charlie, the mailman, delightfully played by Bill Kitzerow, also surprises with his manic laugh and spaniel-like desire to please.

The movie, based on the play “On Golden Pond,” featured Henry Fonda and his daughter, Jane. Over the years, these two stars had made no secret of their estrangement, but they became reconciled during this filming, much in the same way Thayer and Chelsea did. Jane’s father died shortly after.

The American master of nature writing, Henry David Thoreau, shared with the character Thayer a poor opinion of his fellow men and avoided them when he could. He wrote: “I went to Walden Pond to front the essential facts of life and see if I could learn what it had to teach. We must learn to re-awaken ourselves by holding an infinite expectation of the dawn.” It’s a good reminder after the havoc of Hurricane Sandy.

Performances continue through Nov. 18. For tickets, visit nfct.com.

09/20/12 12:00pm
09/20/2012 12:00 PM

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | Mary Motto Kalich was presented with flowers at the reception celebrating The North Fork Community Theatre’s purchase of its longtime playhouse. Ms. Motto Kalich chaired the group’s fundraising efforts, which exceeded $500,000 in less than four years.

No one, except maybe a few old-time theater enthusiasts, remembers The North Fork Community Theatre’s first play at Greenport High School in 1957. Few people can even recall the next few years, when the troupe performed its plays at what is now known as Poquatuck Hall in Orient.

For most local residents it would be hard to picture the theater company anywhere but at its current home on Old Sound Avenue in Mattituck.

Now they won’t have to.

The building where The North Fork Community Theatre has performed its plays since 1961 is officially property of the group, nearly four years after it learned its lease with the church that previously owned the building would not be renewed.

“This is permanent now,” said Mary Motto Kalich, who chaired the campaign to raise the more than $500,000 necessary to purchase the building. “This is not just for me and not just for my kid. This is for many generations beyond us.”

The North Fork Theatre Company closed on the building just after 4 p.m. Tuesday at a law office in Riverhead, less than two weeks after receiving the $13,000 donation that put it beyond its fundraising goal. The group had raised more than $100,000 since May and more than $200,000 this year.

North Fork’s most recent 20-year lease with Mattituck Presbyterian Church expired this month. In 2008, the church, which had allowed the theater company to use the building essentially rent free for more than 50 years, said it no longer wanted to continue the friendly arrangement.

“They were very gracious all these years,” said Marilee Scheer, who delivered the toast at a reception at the theater Tuesday. While the idea of a group with very little fundraising experience coming up with enough cash to purchase the property was daunting, Ms. Scheer said she knew the group could do it.

“The building itself has such a magical karma that I never doubted it,” she said of the theater building, which had been owned by the church since 1830.

Raising the money necessary to purchase the building and its surrounding property was phase one of The North Fork Theatre’s fundraising goal. Now the group will begin phase two, which includes making sure they have enough cash for deferred maintenance. While the board hasn’t yet determined what the next step is, president Bob Beodeker said phase two could include replacing the seats and other improvements to the theater.

Mr. Boedeker said that for now everyone’s just pleased to be able to continue calling the theater home.

“We’re very appreciative of all the people who made this possible,” he said. “It wasn’t just a few large donors. It was lots of people making all kinds of contributions of 100 dollars, 500 dollars, 1,000 dollars.”

In all, nearly 700 different people donated money to the effort, which began just as the economy started to tank.

“The community gave repeatedly, over and over, at a time when it was most difficult to do so,” said Ms. Motto Kalich, who began performing at the theater in 1985, when she was just 13 years old. “They really love this place and they wanted to make sure it was still here.”

Immediate past president and current treasurer Mike Hipp was one of five people who attended the closing Tuesday, a larger group than banks usually see at those types of proceedings.

“This was a bigger deal for us,” he said. “Now, we’ll always have a permanent home.”

gparpan@timesreview.com

06/11/12 12:30pm
06/11/2012 12:30 PM

JOHN NEELY PHOTO | (Left to right) Hannah Schneider, Joe Carraseo, Tre Daniels, and Hayley Sheridan of Riverhead High.

North Fork high school actors’ comedic and musical talents shone at the tenth annual Teeny Awards competition, held Sunday night at Eastport-South Manor High School.

The Teeny Awards, inspired by the Tony Awards, are given each year by East End Arts to outstanding high school actors on the East End.

Actors from Southold High School’s cast of “Curtains” and Riverhead High School’s cast of “Working” entertained the crowds at the red carpet affair, along with actors from South Fork productions.

“Curtains” choreographers Marisa Fedele, Gayle Gammon and Winter Wilcenski took home the award for best choreography. Sam Kortchmar of Southold also took the award for Best Lead Actor in a Musical for his role in “Curtains.”

Riverhead’s Bishop McGann-Mercy High School’s production of “Arsenic and Old Lace” swept the comedy lead actors’ awards, with Nick Motlenski taking the award for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy and Nicole Chiuchiolo taking the award for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy.

Kristen Suarez of Shoreham-Wading River High School took the award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy for her role in her school’s production of “Brighton Beach Memoirs.”

Veronica Reitz of Mattituck, who was in her school’s production of “Leader of the Pack” tied Emily Hinz of Pierson High School in Sag Harbor for the Best Lead Actress in a Musical award.

Jonathan Troiano of Riverhead took the award for Oustanding Performance for his role as “Action” in Riverhead High School’s production of “West Side Story.” The category was created to recognize a student who “shines brightly in a role that is not eligible for adjudication in the leading or supporting categories,” said the judges.

The cast and crew of Mattituck High School’s “Check, Please,” a one-act play produced in April, took the Judges’ Choice Award.

The award is chosen by a vote from the judges for a particular scene, musical number, dance number or group that the judges feel stands out enough to warrant special recognition.

Bishop McGann-Mercy High School was also recognized with the “Innovations in Theatre Education” award for its addition this year of a third production devoted to serious drama.

Stage managers from many East End shows were also recognized, including Sean Walden for Greenport’s production of “archy & mehitabel,” Kaylee Bergen and Kimberly Olsen for Mattituck’s production of “Leader of the Pack,” Maria Peroni and Julia Gaines for Mattituck’s production of “One Acts: The Rehearsal and Check, Please!,” Stephanie Strippoli for “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “The Glass Menagerie” and “Jeckyll & Hyde” at Bishop McGann-Mercy, Abigail Beodeker for Riverhead’s productions of “Working” and “West Side Story,” Jaclyn Conway for Southold’s production of “Curtains,” and Mariah Brengel for Shoreham-Wading River’s productions of “Beauty and the Beast” and “Brighton Beach Memoirs.”

East End Arts Executive Director Pat Snyder said she’s excited at how the Teeny Awards have motivated East End students to produce quality shows over the past ten years.

“The Teeny Awards have accomplished in the past ten years exactly what was expected – calling attention to the value of theatre experience in developing well rounded, confident young adults,” she said. “East End Arts is proud to have introduced this very special program that recognizes and applauds our talented students of the East End.”

byoung@timesreview.com

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For photos of winners from Southold Town high schools, check out our slideshow on suffolktimes.com.