'Pond' writer parodies politicians and protesters

January 6, 2012 - 5:55 PM

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — As candidates crisscross New Hampshire in their quest for votes, an Academy Award-winning writer thinks the time is ripe for "Political Suicide."

That is the title of four one-act plays Ernest Thompson — who wrote "On Golden Pond"— will stage beginning Sunday at Pitman's Freight Room in Laconia.

The plays are dark comedies that parody politicians and protesters alike.

One is about taking the best attribute from each of the candidates to make one candidate who might excite two jaded polling place workers. Another is about a small-town protester who longs to be part of a movement but attracts the attention of no one but the police chief.

Thompson told the Associated Press on Friday that the plays each take a different angle on where our culture is at, but called them "equal opportunity offending plays."

"I like stirring things up a little," Thompson said.

Thompson bills his plays as "funnier than the debates" and said the debates inspired one of the plays — "Mr. Potato Head" — about rolling all the candidates into one dynamic candidate.

"They were pretty funny to watch — those debates — but also pretty sad, because you kept thinking someone has to stand up and say something profound," Thompson said.

Thompson says he purposely did not shape his characters to resemble any of the current candidates.

"What I'm hoping is that four years from now we can do these same plays and they'll have the same resonance," he said.

Thompson wrote one of the plays— about a disillusioned senator —six years ago. He says he wrote the other three recently, as campaigning intensified.

The 1981 movie "On Golden Pond" — filmed in New Hampshire — netted Oscars for Thompson and stars Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda. Last summer Thompson directed the stage production of the play, which he wrote in 1978 for a summer stock theater in Holderness.

Thompson, 62, moved to New Hampshire from Los Angeles 21 years ago.

"The fun part of being in New Hampshire is that you really get to see those characters up close and personal," he said of the candidates.

Thompson said he chose Pitman's Freight Room in downtown Laconia in part because of the short commute from his home and production studio in New Hampton. He said the venue holds about 70 and features a stage they assembled for the 16 performances, including one the night of the primary Jan. 10. The play runs through Jan. 15, then reopens for six additional performances in early February.

Pitman's owner Dick Mitchell said that there is a lot of buzz around town about Thompson's production and that it's exciting for the renovated train depot to host its first theater production.

"It's very timely, and I think his message is on target — everything is screwed up," Mitchell said.

Thompson he had a run-in with the Mitt Romney camp Friday — not over politics, but turf.

Romney campaign workers wanted to take over Pitman's Freight Room for nine hours Friday to set up for and stage an evening rally, Mitchell said. But Thompson has dibs on the property.

"The show has to go on," Thompson said, laughing.