OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS

 
DIRECTOR: Brent A. Stringfield
ASST. DIRECTOR: LaBeth Thompson
PRODUCER: LaBeth Thompson
 
by Joe DiPietro:    Nick is a single, Italian-American guy from New Jersey. His parents retired and moved to Florida. That doesn't mean his family isn't still in Jersey. In fact, he sees both sets of his grandparents every Sunday for dinner. This is routine until he has to tell them that he's been offered a dream job. The job he's been waiting for - marketing executive - would take him away from his beloved, but annoying, grandparents. He tells them. The news doesn't sit so well. Thus begins a series of schemes to keep Nick around. How could he betray his family's love to move to Seattle, for a job, wonder his grandparents. Well, Frank, Aida, Nunzio, and Emma do their level best, and that includes bringing to dinner the lovely - and single - Caitlin O'Hare as bait .. we won't give the ending away here. "A hilarious family comedy..." Backstage. "Loaded with laughs every step of the way." -- Star-Ledger.
 

CAST
Nick CristanoJason Anderson
Frank GianelliLes Payne
Aida GianelliGloria Goldstein
Nunzio CristanoJoel Colbourn
Emma CristanoSherrie Lessard Colbourn
Caitlin O'HareCari Lowery



Jason Anderson

Les Payne

Gloria Goldstein

Joel Colbourn

Sherrie Lessard Colbourn

Cari Lowery

Director
Brent A. Stringfield
 
Photos by Tony Eisenhower



PRODUCTION STAFF

ProducerLaBeth ThompsonSound/Lighting TechnicianLarry Clapp
DirectorBrent A. StringfieldCostume DesignerArlene Darden
Assistant DirectorLaBeth ThompsonProps MistressJoni Washek
Stage ManagerEvelynReservationsJim Payton
Set DesignerBarbara SeagrenHospitality ManagerPowPAC Board
Set Construction ChiefJoel ColbournFlyer/Program Cover DesignMichael McCullock
Set Construction TeamJoel & Sherrie Colbourn, LaBeth Thompson, Doug & Kathy Van Buren, Christopher RobinsonProgram Design/WebmasterElden Davisson
Set DressingChaike LevineVideographerJohn Heinen
Scenic DesignRosemary KingPhotographerTony Eisenhower
Sound DesignerLou AllianoPublicitySherrie Colbourn
Lighting DesignerDaniel ZiskoPrintingBirmingham Press


 
Photos by Tony Eisenhower


Review by Critic Robert Hitchcox
Date Reviewed April 23, 2004

After almost two months it's great to be back seeing live theatre. A minor operation made it impossible for me to drive, write, or even use the computer. PowPAC's production of "Over the River and Through the Woods" under Brent A. Stringfield's direction was the perfect show for my return to the theatre.

Playwright/Author/Lyricist Joe DiPietro, who write "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," "The Art of Murder," and this year's Broadwayer "Can't Help Falling In Love" hit all the right emotions in his comedy "Over the River and Through the Woods."

Many of us have grandparents or great-grandparents who came over from the old country. Nick Cristano's (Jason Anderson) maternal and fraternal grandparents came from Italy and have spent their adult life in Hoboken, New Jersey. They are steeped in the old ways. Nick is the last remaining kin in the area. His sister moved to San Diego with all those Californians and his parents went south to humid Florida. Nick is planning a move to Seattle and a promotion.

"Over the River and Through the Woods" pits the elders and their values with the young and contemporary America that the grandparents will never understand. DiPietro's dialog rings true: the loud arguing ane convoluted logic of the elders with the contemporary logic of the younger.

Frank and Aida Grianelli (Les Payne and Gloria Goldstein) often visited by Nunzio and Emma Cristano (Joel and Sherrie Lessard Colbourn) are absolutely delightful. Aida, the stereotypical Italian mother is constantly cooking and attempted force-feeding young Nick. Frank is putting everybody in Hoboken in jeopardy with his driving inaccuracies. Nunzio, we soon find out, is sick, but putting up a grand image. His wife Emma, well just don't even think of arguing with her. Payne, Goldstein, and the Colbourns steal the show under the adept direction of Stringfield. They have "their" Italian heritage and dialect down perfectly. The Trivial Pursuits game will bring tears to yours eyes from laughter.

Anderson's Nick is the perfect contrast to this outrageous group. No Italian accent with him. His Manhattan accent occasionally wavered, but his characterization of a put-upon Nick was right on. Anderson had to maintain a high internal energy just to attempt to balance the four elders. He succeeded. Don't miss his visual asides, they counter the others amusingly.

My one objection with the play is that DiPietro was way to stingy with minor love interest Caitlin O'Hare's (Cari Lowery) lines. Lowery had two all too brief visits. 'Twas a shame we didn't see more of this talented actress.

Barbara Seagren's set was quite properly an older Italian home complete with a kitchen off the dining room and a garden entrance (the work of Scenic Designer Rosemary King) off of the living room. You felt like you were actually in their home and not a stage. Chaike Levine brought a classic lived-in look right down to an afghan on the back of the couch. Daniel Zisko was challenged by the varied requirements for specials in his lighting design. Sound Designer Lou Alliano brought a grand selection of music that set the mood that underpinned many scenes. Arlene Darden's costumes were great. The older folks looked like they had just come out of the 50s with women in prints and the men in frumpy sweaters, while Nick was contemporary. Backstage was kept busy with readying enough food to feed the cast every weekend.

"Over the River and Through the Woods" balances the contrast of the ages with both humor and many serious moments, especially in the second act. We definitely learn to love them all and we can feel for Nick's desire for advancement with the elder's desire for family. DiPietro uses characters occasionally speaking directly to the audience more effectively than many playwrights. Director Stringfield should be complimented for his cast's holding for laughter, nary a line was lost. Thank you.