by Irene Morse
Special KRL coupon code at the end of this article.
Over the River and Through the Woods. Is there anyone who cannot finish the next line in that lyric? Right, To Grandmother’s House We Go. If, instead of one grandmother, you have two, and two grandfathers as well, and they are all Italian, and you are expected for dinner every single Sunday, you know what the play, often shortened to OTR, by Joe DiPietro is all about. This is the third production in the current season presented by The Visalia Community Players at the Ice House Theatre.
Although the play was first published in 1998, it is as topical a family story today as at any time in history. Up and coming marketing exec, Nick, is the only family member still residing within the radius of his cloying grandparents. He loves them and enjoys having Sunday dinner with them. Except that he has been offered an important career promotion if he will relocate across the continent to Seattle.
The hilarious comedy takes off from there. You don’t have to be Italian to understand to what lengths loving grandparents will go to keep their pampered grandson from leaving.
The Players presented this show ten years ago. Although he was not directly involved in that production director, Donny Graham, states that he was feeling nostalgia for the story.
He mused that his perspective is somewhat changed after ten years. Donny looks back now as “an aging person” and wonders how his younger family members look at him. He hopes they will come to the show and say, “Oh, yeah, that’s a bit like Papa,” and smile.
Sunday dinner is always at the home of Aida and Frank Gianelli, Nancy Holley and Keith Lindersmith. Lindersmith was the director of OTR when it was last performed at the Ice House. Because each director is different, and each brings his own creativity to a project, Lindersmith reports that this production has more action, but the same feel good ambiance as the first one.
Holley, who is reprising her role in the play, likes how it shows the contrast in generations, and how some people handle that contrast better than others. She also likes that it is very funny, but loves the scenes which are poignant as well. Holley reports that her character is “all about food. It is her way of giving.”
Karen Simpson and Karl Schoettler take the roles of the other grandparents, Emma and Nunzio Cristano. Simpson reports that when she was thirty-two years old, she felt lucky to have had four loving grandparents in her life. She loves her role especially when she gets to be loud and passionate. Simpson believes that audiences will experience “their own family emotions coming to the surface” during this show.
Schoettler says that he thought his biggest challenge in this show would be playing twenty years above his actual age. While he’s still working on that element and not wanting to portray it as a stereotype, it hasn’t been so hard. He continues, “The storyline is sweet and fits like an old glove.”
Thom Crowe portrays the conflicted grandson, Nick. He reports that he “loves working with Donny.” Crowe has been able to place himself in “the parent zone,” and likes that the story is touching yet filled with great humor. He believes audiences will relate to the family that follows the Three Fs, Faith, Family, and Food.
In order to try to keep their boy at home, Emma has invited “the unmarried niece of my canasta partner” to dinner. They all hope Nick will fall in love with her. Caitlin, is portrayed by Caitlin Hill. Hill likes the family values expressed in the play. Her role is “cute and romantic” and will be “fun for the whole family.”
The themes of the show are universal; almost everyone will be able to relate to this family. As Nick is trying to announce that he is leaving, Aida presses one culinary offering after another on him. At last, in frustration, he bursts out, “This is a one-sentence announcement. You don’t have to cater it!”
Over the River and Through the Woods opens at the Ice House Theater at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 4, 2015 and runs for three weekends with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on 12/5, 12/11, 12/12, 12/18, 12/19, and matinees at 2:00 p.m. on 12/6, 12/13, and 12/20.
For more information about the Visalia Community Players and to purchase tickets, check out their website and KRL’s article about VCP. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 734-3900. For details about local arts groups in Tulare County, visit the Visalia Arts Consortium website.
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To purchase two tickets for the price of one, enter KRLOTR in the Have a code? box on the Buy/Redeem Tickets Reservation page via the Players website.