The Community Players' final show of their 86th season which is their 321st production is Joe DiPietro's tender, loving and comedic look at an Italian-American family, "Over the River and Through the Woods''. Nick Cristano is a 29 year old Italian at the crossroads of his life. For his entire life, Nick and his four grandparents have gathered for the traditional Sunday night family dinner. This tradition is about to change when Nick breaks the news that he is leaving New Jersey for a job promotion in Seattle. Bent on keeping their grandson around so he can marry and have children, the four grandparents hatch a plot to keep him in town. Hilarity is the name of the game during the first act with many poignant and touching moments in the second act when Nick finally learns the true meaning of being part of a loving family with the Italian mantra of "Tengo Famiglia" to hold a family close to you. Director Sandy Cerel does a phenomenal job with her expert combination of the comic and dramatic moments and her fantastic six member cast who obtain laughter and tears from a very appreciative audience. This well written and directed show is a must see show for this summer season that will warm your hearts and tickle your funny bone.
Sandy not only cast her show wonderfully but she blocks it perfectly, too. She mixes the old country values with current day trends splendidly. The gorgeous living, dining room, front doorway and stairs set is by Brian Mulvey while Sandy and the cast supply their numerous costumes for the show. The lighting design is an important part of this show when the five main characters have their soliloquies as well as to set the mood for the tear jerking moments, is by Dan Fisher who runs both the lighting and sound for the show. Ryan Hanley, who is part Italian, plays the pivotal role of Nick. He does an excellent job in this enormous role. He creates a memorable character that the audience can immediately identify with in his relationship with his grandparents. His exasperation at his meddling grandparents is mixed together with his deep caring and love for his family. Ryan handles the comic and dramatic moments perfectly and he really shines in his many monologues throughout the show, too. He is really establishing himself as a first rate young actor with his many diverse roles and acting prowess in all of them.
The four grandparents in this show are fabulous in their roles whether they are making you laugh hysterically or making you sob uncontrollably. They show great depth in their roles to get the true meaning of what family is all about. Each of them have their moments to shine in their individual and group scenes. These topnotch performers are Carl DeSimone as Frank Gianelli, Carol Forrest as Aida Gianelli, Ed Carusi as Nunzio Cristano and Camille Terilli as Emma Cristano. Carl tells the serious story about how his father put him on a boat to America so he could have a better life here while his comic moments include his playing the mandolin and the descriptions of his terrible driving while Carol cooks up these fabulous Italian meals, makes sandwiches when Nick isn't hungry, wants to feed everyone constantly and has a wonderful crying scene when Nick decides to go to Seattle. Ed tells funny stories about courting Emma, sings "Yes Sir, That's My Baby", plays trivial pursuit in a round about hilarious way to get the answer, has a hidden health problem but decides to keep it a secret from Nick and has a long talk with Nick on the porch about following his dreams which is very poignant. Camille plays the religious Mass card buying grandmother, Emma who likes to go on bus trips to many places including Atlantic City, fixes Nick up with her canasta card playing partner's daughter to keep up from moving away, has many comic one liners with the funniest one being Emma's mistaking Caitlin for a veterinarian when she tells them she is a vegetarian and can't eat Aida's veal. Camille's tender and serious scene in the second act evokes tears as Emma tells Nick you can't hold on to your loved ones forever, no matter how many tears you shed and no matter how you try to stop it. The grandparents many comic and dramatic antics need to be seen to be fully enjoyed. Bravo. Rounding out the cast is Amy Silva as Caitlin O'Hare, the Irish nurse who is a vegetarian. She tells Nick that he is a jackass for yelling at his grandparents and later on she tells him to cherish them while they are still around. So for an outstanding show of awesome direction and acting, be sure to catch "Over the River and Through the Woods" for a pleasant and poignant trip down memory lane. Tell them Tony sent you. You won't be disappointed.