The current show by the Renaissance City Theatre Inc., the producing entity at the Granite Theatre of Westerly is Joe DiPietro's tender, loving comedic look at an Italian-American family in "Over the River and Through the Woods." The show takes place in the Gianelli home in Hoboken, New Jersey. Nick Cristiano's parents have retired and moved to Florida. Nick who is 35 years old is at the crossroad of life and awaits his dream job. For his entire life, he has had dinner with his two sets of grandparents every Sunday night. When he obtains his dream job in Seattle, the grandparents plot and scheme to keep Nick in town so he can marry and have children. They hatch a plot to keep him in town involving the pretty and single, Caitlin O'Hare as bait. Hilarity is the name of the game during the first act while there are many touching and poignant moments during the second act when Nick learns the true meaning of a loving family with the Italian mantra of "Tengo Familia." Director David Jepson does a marvelous job with this well written script with his expert blending of the comic and dramatic moments from his talented six member cast who obtain laughter and tears from a very appreciative audience. This well directed gut wrenching show is a must see to melt your hearts for the winter season.
Leading this cast is John Cillino as Nick. He tackles this role with an enormous amount of dialogue marvelously. John creates a character that the audience can easily identify with in his relationship with his grandparents. The old country values clashing with the current trends are explored. His exasperation at his meddling grandparents who try to fix him up on a blind date to keep him in New Jersey is mixed with his deep feeling and love for his family. John handles the dialogue and his many monologues with ease, displaying his prowess as a well seasoned actor in one of the best roles I have ever seen him perform.
David not only directs this show but designed the gorgeous living room and dining room set as well as acts in it, too. The four performers playing the grandparents are excellent in their roles, making you laugh and cry at all the appropriate moments. Each of them have their moments to shine individually and in group scenes. These performers are David and his lovely wife, Beth as Frank and Aida Gianelli and Ray Daponte and Christine Reynolds as Nunzio and Emma Cristanio. David tells the serious story of his father who couldn't buy Christmas gifts because they were poor and could barely buy food, also plays the mandolin and drives badly. Beth is comical as Aida who tries get people to eat constantly and wants to mail a lasagna to Nick. She cooks these big Italian meals and wants Caitlin who is a vegetarian to eat her veal. Beth and David have topnotch Italian accents and she has a terrific crying scene, too.
Ray is comical at first by telling how he got his Union card by pretending to be Irish, insults Caitlin by saying the Irish really like to drink, tells funny stories about courting Emma, takes photos of his grandson and sings "Yes, Sir That's My Baby." He then tugs on your heartstrings when he refuses to tell Nick about his prostate cancer secret to keep him in New Jersey. plays Emma, the loudmouth grandmother who is also taking Mario Parillo bus trips with senior citizens, continually buys Mass cards for her grandson too get married. She also fixes him up with her Canasta playing friend's granddaughter and wants Nunzio to tell Nick about his prostate cancer. They are wonderful in this scene with their loving reactions to each other. One of the funniest moments occurs during the Trivial Pursuit game when they keep trying to guess the guy with the ears in "High Noon" and their patter back and forth is marvelous.
Rounding out the cast is the beautiful Anna Convery as Caitlin O'Hare who Emma tries to match make with Nick. They mistake her for an animal nurse because Caitlin is a vegetarian. Her funniest bit occurs when she calls Nick an asshole for treating his grandparents poorly. Later Anna has a poignant scene as Caitlin explains that when she was 13 her grandmother enjoyed having her read to her but had dementia and was unable to recognize her own granddaughter. She explains Nick should cherish and respect his grandparents while he still has them around. So a fantastic well written and well performed show, be sure to catch "Over the River and Through the Woods" for a pleasant and poignant trip down memory lane.