Written by Joe DiPietro
Directed by Larry Kent Bramble
At Broward Stage Door Theatre, Coral Springs
Loving enough to let go
At the end of Act I, our faces were wreathed in smiles. At the close of the play, we wiped away tears. What a wonderful, tender, humorous, poignant and well-acted story!
Over the River and Through the Woods (to grandmother’s house, of course, just as the song proclaims) is a delightful tale of reaching maturity at any age. Nick (Stephen Kaiser) visits his four adoring Italian grandparents to inform them that he has just gotten a wonderful promotion. There is only one caveat — he will now have to move far away from them, across the country to Seattle.
All the action takes place in the Hoboken living/dining room of one set of grandparents, Frank (Kevin Reilly) and Aida (Miki Edelman), while the other set, Emma (Vicki Klein) and Nuncio (Jerry Weinberg), live near enough to visit frequently. Nick enjoys weekly Sunday dinners with them all.
The four are understandably dismayed as they see his move as a rejection of the importance of family. As Nick notes, “the three F’s — family, faith and food” — make up the essentials of their lives. To dissuade him, they move from the fanciful to the realistic. In the fanciful, they introduce him to Caitlin, a lovely single Irish girl (Abby Perkins) in the hopes that a romance might tempt him to stay. In the realistic, they all come to terms with what it means to love and let go.
The winsome seniors are a study in care and concern. They may be Italian, but their behavior transcends any ethnic group. Aida keeps pressing food; Emma offers Catholic prayer cards. The house is kept like a steam bath. (No matter what the weather, the air conditioner is not turned on until after the Fourth of July!) One hilarious highlight is when they play a game of Trivial Pursuit, trying to determine answers by outrageous feats of association.
Any summarization fails to do justice to the wit and humor of the play as the four grandparents play off against each other and their grandson, and it also cannot recreate how the realities of aging and truths of separation are handled — very sensitively. At any stage of life — as child, young adult, parent, or grandparent — this charming play will touch your heart.
Beverly Friend, Ph.D.
Member, American Theater Critics Assn.
Broward Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W Sample Rd Coral Springs, Fl 33065. 954-344-7765 Tickets $38 (Students $16), 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday through May 11.