AS the first of their spring offerings, New Forest Players presented Over the River and Through the Woods, a heartfelt comedy by New Jersey playwright Joe DiPetrio.
Ballard School Performing Arts Centre was transformed into Hoboken, a suburb in New Jersey across the Hudson River from Manhattan and the story revolves around a first generation Italian-American family.
Ieuan Luker was most assured as Nick Christiano, a modern young professional single man in New York City who goes ‘over the river’ every Sunday for dinner with his grandparents in Hoboken.
Chris Davis and Wendy Beaumont were Frank and Aida Gianelli, Nick’s maternal grandparents. Wendy was particularly good in her portrayal of the adoring grandmother, continually pressing Nick and anyone else who comes across her path to eat, despite their protests.
Alan Whitty and Christine Battison were Nunzio and Emma Christiano, Nick’s paternal grandparents who live next door and join in the Sunday meal. Both grandfathers keep stressing the principle of ‘tengo familia’, the importance of families keeping together and supporting each other.
When Nick makes an unexpected mid-week visit and announces, after a great number of interruptions from his grandparents, that he has been offered a promotion but will have to move right across the country to Seattle, his grandparents are heartbroken.
They cannot conceive the thought of their beloved grandson living and raising a family so far from then – or not even raising a family at all.
On the other hand, he rather relishes the chance to get away from the cloying atmosphere of his grandparents’ all-encompassing love, as his parents and sister already had with their retreat to Florida and San Diego.
The grandparents decide they must act to keep him ‘at home’ and finally they think they have the perfect solution – they invite the sweet Caitlin O’Hare to dinner in the hope that Nick will fall for her and stay with them. Zoe Keith was a lovely sympathetic Caitlin who gets angry at Nick because he loses patience with his grandparents.
As the play proceeds, snippets of the sacrifices the grandparents have made in creating lives for themselves and their family in the New World are brought out and there is a touching undercurrent running through the play in that Nunzio is dying but doesn’t want Nick to know this, although it would definitely keep him in New York.
The stage is set as a typical Italian-American sitting/dining room with innumerable servings of food. Each scene is introduced by a snatch of a song sung by Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra, and, most importantly, all the actors performed with very creditable New Jersey accents and mannerisms throughout. A successful result for David Luker in his debut as the director of a main production.