Review: Over the River and Through the Woods
Shame. On. Me. Over the River and Through the Woods? Ugh! I thought I was in store for a sappy, frivolous comedy. Boy, did I get my comeuppance.
Richmond Hill Players’ current production, expertly directed by Jennifer Kingry, of Over the River and Through the Woods, Joe DiPietro’s intimate peek into the Italian-American family of Nick Cristano, is nothing short of delightful, relatable, funny, revealing, and poignant.
The play takes place in Hoboken , New Jersey and opens with bachelor Nick preparing to announce to his grandparents, Frank, Aida, Nunzio, and Emma, that he has been offered a big and lucrative promotion that will require him to move to Seattle . This is devastating news to all of them because as Frank exclaims early on “tango famiglia!” Family is EVERYTHING and Nick is the last member of this extended family left in New Jersey . In an effort to get Nick to stay they conspire to give him a reason to stay, i.e. a romance. They invite the unwitting Irish-American, Caitlin, to their regular Sunday dinner as the bait but Nick immediately sees through their ploy and erupts into a tirade that ends in a panic attack, sending him to the hospital.
From there, the over-protective nonnas smother Nick during his recuperation and all of them get honest with each other about family relationships and the love they all have for each other.
I can’t emphasize enough how well-written this script is. Yes, there are some trite characterizations like Aida’s constant need to feed, and silver-haired bafflement with modern technology. But things and situations become trite because they are true.
A dynamite cast, which includes two members with off Broadway credits, delivers touching depictions of these thoroughly lovable characters and it would be disingenuous to suggest any of them: Tyler Henning as Nick, Kevin Babbitt and Jackie Patterson as Frank and Aida, Jim Harris and Jackie Skiles as Nunzio and Emma, and Elizabeth Shaffer as Caitlin, portray their characters any better than any other, although I do have to give Babbitt extra points for his spot on Italian accent and Shaffer’s performance is the best of all the roles I’ve previously seen her in.
So, pop a Dean Martin tape or CD into the player and drive on out to RHP’s barn. I guarantee you will see some element of your own family in this adorable show. Tango famiglia!
Over the River and Through the Woods continues at Richmond Hill Players in Geneseo Thursday through Saturday, August 24 through 26 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, August 27 at 3:00 p.m.
I’m Chris Hicks…break a leg.