Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Over The River And Through The Woods"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2005 by Tony Annicone

"Over The River And Through The Woods"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Mill River Players' first show of this year 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 Hoboken 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 ensues with some wonderful poignant moments that lead Nick to realize the true meaning of family and "Tengo Familia". Lee Rush's strong direction and excellent cast are paired up with one of the best written scripts around, making this perfect blend of comedy and pathos one of the must see shows of the season.

Artistic director and chef, Chuck PetitBon cooks the delicious before show dinner which consists of all you can eat Chicken Vegetable Soup or Corn Chowder, freshly baked Italian bread, string beans and carrots and oven baked sweet and white potatoes with Italian spices plus five different entrees. I had the baked fish with a scrumptious lemon dill sauce on it. The meal is topped off with a freshly made cannolli and coffee or tea. Chuck also built the fantastic living and dining room sets with an outdoor park bench. Another important element in this show is the many lighting cues when each of the character's have their soliloquies to the audience executed by Stacy Aponte. However it is Lee's expert direction that stands out in this show. The old country values meeting the current day trends of Nick are meshed together perfectly. She gives each performer to shine in their roles, proving her strength as a wonderful director.

David Graf makes his stage debut as Nick and gives a tour de force performance while doing it. He handles the enormous pages of dialogue with the ease of a seasoned actor. David creates a marvelous character whom the audience can immediately identify with in his relationship with his grandparents. His exasperation at their meddling is mixed with his deep love for his family. What an excellent stage debut from this talented actor in a lead role and making it a very memorable one.

The four grandparents are fantastic in their roles whether they are making you laugh hysterically or sob uncontrollably. Each one of them have their moments to sparkle in this show with Dick Guzzi as Frank, Evie Rayburg as his wife, Ada, Alex Aponte as Nunzio and Alyce Fitzgerald-Hagopian as his wife, Emma. Dick tells the serious stories, plays the accordian and is a terrible driver while Evie cooks up these fabulous Italian meals and wants feed everyone constantly. Alex tells funny stories and sings "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" but keeps a secret about his health from everyone while Alyce plays the religious Mass card buying grandmother who likes to go on bus trips. Their antics are priceless and to reveal any more of them would spoil the show for the audience. Rounding out this cast is David's real life wife, Michele who plays the Irish girl, Emma tries to set up Nick with. She makes the most of her stage time and has a funny bit where she calls Nick an asshole for the way he yells at his grandparents. So for an excellent evening of dinnertainment, be sure to catch the splendid "Over the River and Through the Woods" by the Mill River Players. It will be a pleasant trip filled with many memories of the past for everyone.

"Over The River And Through The Woods" (13 January - 12 February)
499 High Street, CENTRAL FALLS RI
1 (401) 721-0909

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide