note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Beverly Creasey
Joe DiPietro's "Over The River And Through The Woods" is billed as an Italian comedy and its playwright is known as "the Italian Neil Simon" ... but it only overcomes its sitcom sensibility in Act II when one of the grandfathers (Bob Colonna) gets serious and tells his grandson about the father he hated. Thanks to Colonna, his speech about the pretty toys he never had as a child turns out to be the play's most poignant moment.
The grandson (a droll Bill Mootos) is the play's narrator of sorts --- although several characters address the audience. Mootos tells us that this will be a play about the three Italian F's: family, food, and faith.
"Over The River.. "didn't seem to be very Italian (except for the food which one grandmother pushes on everyone --- and there is a funny bit about foisting a veal sandwich on a vegetarian---) but we never heard anything about 'faith.' I'm carping, I know. But the actors didn't seem old enough for their roles. Bobbie Steinbach and Ellen Colton (two of the funniest actors around) are definitely not in their seventies so I kept being distracted by the math. (How old are the two grandmothers if one just celebrated a 55th wedding anniversary? Maybe she got married at age two! Maybe I added wrong.)
Director Paula Ramsdell's actors give their best effort to serve the material...and Ellen Colton hasn't been this hilarious since she played a sourpuss named Muriel in the old Lyric's "Woman in Mind". She's so good she turns the line "I'm a dooer" into an ironic, sardonic, self-righteous sub rosa character study in three short words. I'm not laughing about much else in "Over The River.. " but don't go by me. I'm not a sitcom fan...The audience was killing themselves laughing the day I went. They obviously got it. So what do I know?