"Over the River and Through the Woods" is a happy song, usually sung around the Thanksgiving and Yuletide holiday season.
Playwright Joe DiPietro wrote a compelling comedy around that tune. His play delves into family traditions, values and dynamics.
Okoboji Summer Theatre is performing DiPietro's creation this week and they have put everything good into this production. The set, designed by Brandon PT Davis, takes us to Hoboken, New Jersey in the 1990s. However, the home is that of Italian immigrants who built and treasured their home but made no updates in half a century. That couch is one of the ugliest I have seen in a long time. My son thought his great-grandparents had one just like it. I admit, it did look familiar.
The story centers around two sets of grandparents who are neighbors and gather every Sunday for dinner with their 29-year-old grandson, Nick.
Nick has decided to accept a promotion and move to Seattle, Washington. The antics involved in the plans those senior citizens launch to change his mind about moving are hilarious and very touching.
OST has brought together four seasoned actors from both coasts to portray the grandparents. Rob Doyen (Columbia, Missouri) and Brigid Cleary (Washington, D.C.) play Frank and Aida Gianelli. They are delightful! Mark Taylor (Hollywood, California) and Jeanne Marlin (Professor Emeritus Western Illinois University) portray Nunzio and Emma Cristiano. They are so good together!
Taylor tugged at our heartstrings through the evening. If Cleary had headed to that kitchen one more time to cook, I would have burst and I wasn’t even eating all that food. These four professionals gave us one heck of an outstanding performance.
A well-deserved standing ovation goes out to Andrew Stachurski for his performance as Nick. When he walked onto the stage I immediately thought of him as The Nerd last year and the obnoxious older brother in "The Miracle Worker." But it only took him a few seconds to transport my mind to Nick. He was fabulous in this role. We felt his love of family, frustration and excitement at a new life all evening long. Bravo, Andrew!
Erika Didio played Caitlyn O’Hare. She is the only student amongst all those professionals in the cast. She held her own and was endearing to us in the audience. We hated to see her go.
Congratulations to director Fredrick Rubeck on channeling all that is wonderful about the talent on that stage and encouraging them to give us an outstanding night of live theatre.
While this play is a comedy with some very funny scenes, it is definitely thought-provoking. Four generations of my family attended the opening night show. Everyone from my 94-year-old mother to my 12-year-old grandson loved it.
We delved into the family dynamics as w talked afterward. We laughed and shed a tear or two. The vote on whether Gramps should have told Nick or not was 4-3.
Prepare to laugh a lot, think a lot, and shed some tears. It is an amazing evening of theatre for youngsters in their pre-teens to great-grandparents. Thank you OST!
"Over the River and Through the Woods" continues through Sunday. Showtime is 8 p.m. through Saturday night with a matinee at 4:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon and the final performance Sunday at 6 p.m For tickets call the box office at 712-332-7773.