arts

‘Over the River’ relates to audience through familiar characters



Tengo famiglia,” an Italian expression for putting the family first, is the central concept of the Monroe County Civic Theater’s latest production, “Over the River and Through the Woods.”

The play, which opened Friday in the John Waldron Arts Center Auditorium, balances comedy and heartwarming moments, all the while making the audience nostalgic.

“Over the River” is set in New Jersey and tells the story of Nick, played by Gabe Gloden, and his four Italian grandparents.

When Nick’s grandparents realize that he wants to move to Seattle for a new job, they will do anything to keep him close, including setting him up on a dinner date with Caitlin O’Hare, played by senior Erin Sullivan, in the hopes the two will fall in love and live happily ever after in New Jersey.

The small atmosphere of the auditorium makes the audience members feel like they are part of the family. The acting is so real and spot on that some viewers might envision their own families in the comedic situations and heartwarming moments.

“It’s grandparents with their grandson. Everyone is loud and loves to eat,” Sullivan said. “My family is like this. My friends’ families are like this. I think a majority of people can relate to it.”

Even Sheila Butler’s portrayal of a much older woman, Emma Cristano, will have the audience longing for their grandmothers.

“It has been a challenge and a lot of fun creating her character,” Butler said. “She has taken on a personality all her own.”

Audience members will be able to see their own family’s characteristics reflected in at least one of these characters. If not from the overbearing you-need-to-eat Aida Gianelli, played by Linda Ostermeier, or Nick who cannot even play a game of trivial pursuit with his grandparents without feeling frustrated, then perhaps Frank Gianelli, played by Frank Buczolich, or Nunzio Cristano, played by Jim Hettmer, who both just want a couple of pictures of their grandson.

The play’s director, Rance Fawbush, hopes families will be able to enjoy the show together.

“I want them to have a wonderful time watching,” Fawbush said. “It’s just a fun presentation of intra-family trials and tribulations, done with universal humor.”

“Over the River and Through the Woods” will show again at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the John Waldron Arts Center Auditorium. Tickets are $12 for the general public and $9 for students. Tickets are available at the door before the performance. Visit www.mcct.org for more information.

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