The current show at the Newport Playhouse is Joe DiPietro's tender, loving comedic look at an Italian-American family, "Over the River and Through the Woods". Nick Cristiano is a 25 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 touching and poignant moments during the second act where Nick learns the meaning of being part of a loving family with the Italian mantra of "Tengo Familia". Director Sandy Cerel does a fabulous job with this well written script, with her expert combination of comic and dramatic moments from his fantastic six cast members who obtain laughter and tears from the audience. This well directed show is a must see show for this summer season to warm your hearts.
Sandy not only cast her show very well but blocks it wonderfully, too. She mixes the old country values with current day trends perfectly. The gorgeous living room and dining room set is by Fred Davison while set decoration is by Victoria San Antonio. The lighting design is by Charlotte Armstrong and is important when the characters have their soliloquies and to set the mood for the tear jerking moments, too. Jamie Dufault who just graduated from URI, plays the pivotal role of Nick. He does an excellent job in this enormous role. Jamie creates a character that the audience can immediately identify with in his relationship with his grandparents. His exasperation at his meddling grandparents is mixed with his deep feeling and love for his family. Jamie handles the dialogue and his many monologues with ease.
The four grandparents in this show are marvelous 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 a family is about. Each of them have their moments to shine in their individual and group scenes. These topnotch performers are Jim Killavey as Frank Gianelli, Sandi Nicastro as Aida Gianelli, Ed Carusi as Nunzio Cristanio and Camille Terilli as Emma Cristanio.Jim tells the serious story about his father, plays the mandolin and is a terrible driver while Sandi cooks up these fabulous Italian meals and wants to feed everyone constantly. (Sandi cooks the meals for the show and they are definitely delicious!) Ed tells funny stories about courting Emma and sings "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" but keeps a serious health problem a secret while Camille plays the religious Mass card buying grandmother who likes to go on bus trips and fixes Nick up with her Canasta card playing partner's daughter to try to keep him from moving to Seattle. Their many comic and dramatic antics have to be seen to be enjoyed so I won't spoil any of them for the audience. Rounding out the cast is Rachel Nadeau, a senior at URI who plays Caitlin O'Hare who Emma tries to fix up with Nick. She makes the most of her stage time and has a funny bit where she calls Nick a jerk for yelling at his grandparents while she explains later that he should respect and cherish them while he still has them. You will enjoy a scrumptious buffet before the show with many mouth watering treats by Sue Raposa, especially the melt in your mouth spareribs and delicious spinach. After the show you will enjoy a patriotic cabaret. So for a wonderful dinner theatre experience provided by Matt Siravo for the past 22 years and the best acted and directed shows around, be sure to catch "Over the River and Through the Woods" for a pleasant and poignant trip down memory lane. ( A word of praise to the hard working stage manager, Nishan Lawton)..