Arts & Entertainment

‘Over the River and Through the Woods’ Runs Gamut from Banter to Pathos

SUMMIT, NJ – There’s something about Joe DiPietro’s “Over the River and Through the Woods” that makes it appealing to directors and audiences, certainly in this immediate area.
Last year The Bickford Theatre in Morristown did the play and this year it’s on stage at The Summit Playhouse.  The Summit audience obviously fell in love with the show, with laughter and tears in equal measure.
There are certainly enough twists and turns in this script to take the audience by surprise.  It seems that Nick, in a volatile performance by Scott Tyler, has been offered a promotion in Seattle. He has been visiting his two sets of grandparents every Sunday in Hoboken for most of his 29 years. His parents moved to Florida, so he is the last generational link to the older crowd.
The cast is excellent, without overdoing the mannerisms that would turn them into stereotypes. James Broderick as Nunzio Cristano is affable and especially hilarious in his attempts at Trivial Pursuit. After a number of diversions, he gets the answer. His wife, Emma, is played by Margurite Wurtz.They’ve been married 55 years and still have much joy in each other, often reminiscing about Perillo tours. Frank and Aida Gianelli are the other set of grandparents. Nancy Lee Ryan as Aida thinks that food is the solution to everything, so constantly interrupts conversations to present a little cheese sandwich or some Danish. Arnold J. Buchiane as Frank still wants to drive, even though he’s a menace on the highway. Caitlin O’Hare is the lovely potential girlfriend, played by Wendy Schibener. The grandparents are conspiring, reasoning if Nick falls in love with her, he’ll never move to Seattle.

Timing is everything in comedy and this cast plays off each other beautifully.  Nick’s over the top frustration towards the end of Act I had the audience shouting and cheering.
At any rate, all this comes together with warmth and affection, which is probably why this play works so well. Director Julia Frieri keeps it all moving along. Rhoda Roper has designed a lovely, homey set with fading wallpaper and arched doorways, just the sort of place you’d never want to leave. Aida proudly notes that Frank built the house for her. Nancy Davies provides costumes that reflect  the personalities for the flamboyant Cristanos and the more settled Gianellis.  It’s a running joke about how hot the house is, with the grandparents wearing sweaters in June.
“Over the River and through the Woods:” continues at The Summit Playhouse, 10 New England Avenue in Summit through May 12. For a lovely, touching comedy with a heart, you really can’t go wrong by taking in this tribute to family and tradition. Call 908-273-2192 or visit for tickets.

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