So this summer I took a break from being onstage, as I promised my lil man, so we could spend some time together. While the draw to the stage is a huge pull I feel daily, it has been enjoyable and relaxing. It has also allowed me to have the opportunity to see a few shows, which I don't often get the opportunity to go and see.
Last night I "took myself out on the town" and ventured to a theater, that before a week or so ago, I never knew existed. The Westfield Playhouse in Eagletown had the opening weekend of Joe DiPietro's "Over the River and Through the Woods", directed by Doug Davis.
The theater itself is an old church, which I am told, was a hot mess when the theater came in. Alot of work has been put into the space, and you will feel very welcomed when you step into the intimate setting. The people are there for a love of the theater and run the place accordingly. Refreshing.
Seated in the front row, I was immediately taken to Hoboken, New Jersey...not only from the up close and personal view of the "old italian" living room before me, but also, the rest of the theater was costumed with "Little Italy" merchandise, posters and pictures you might see hanging in windows of shops.
Looking at the set I was reminded immediately of my own grandparents house, too much shit shoved onto one table, that tacky afgan that never seems to leave the couch - and appears to have mold growing on one side....but then you notice the Italian-flare, crucifixes and pictures of St. Mary adorning the walls. Homey and completely eye-rolling all at the same time.
Doug Stanton plays Nick, a single fellow, who is conflicted about moving on with his life and being pulled to stay close to his roots in New Jersey. Every Sunday he visits his grandparents for Sunday dinner, and not just one set of grandparents, but BOTH sets of grandparents. These are the old people you see together for years and years and you wonder how exactly they learned to beat life? They are happy, laughing, smacking each other's asses and dancing and singing to each other. Foreign to me, as my only witnessing of an interaction between my grandparents was one of them yelling at the other to "shut up and take the damn pill!!!" or usually, the silence that came from one being in one room and the other in another room. Both watching tv, same show, but not together, in any way.
John Carver and Marty Essig play Frank and Aida, and it is their house we have the pleasure of visiting. Although they bicker and tease each other, every word is spoken with an underlying love and care...even if it is just Aida insisting for the hundredth time that you "eat something...who's hungry????" The transformation these two made into these characters was amusing, Frank with his nose in his paper and Aida always in an apron, carrying a wooden spoon like her weapon of choice...
John Sampson and Jean Adams play Nunzio and Emma, the other set of grandparents, rounding out the family unit. Musing to myself, I LOVED the contrast of the sets of grandparents...Frank and Aida appearing to be this, jolly, lovable, homey set who is happy feeding you and reading the paper. Nunzio and Emma are the lanky, active, old folks. LOL. Always more energy than you know what to do with. You can tell, THIS is the couple that only get maybe 4 hours of sleep a night, and are up working in the garden at 5am, wondering why you have slept in so long?
The show as a whole had me laughing from start to finish, the reality of these old people interupting each other, trying to be the loudest and say their piece, all the while trying to do their best to take care of their grandson, Nick. EVEN by bringing over a girl to woo him with - Caitlin, played by sweet and endearing, Emily Crickmore.
One of the things I love about theater as a whole, is being able to find glimpses of reality within the story. The work by these fine actors not only took you away on a story with them, but allowed you to have some 3rd party perspective on the "why people do what they do", especially when it comes to family. Similar to the way I laughed and was appalled watching "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", these characters make you laugh, made ME cry (I asked Mr. Shawn Evans why he didn't TELL me I would need a tissue - YES I broke out in the Oprah UGLY cry!!!!), and made me want to run up and hug all of them afterwards. Oh, and eat some of that, whatever the hell it was they were eating onstage...
The show runs for the next 2 weekends, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 2:30...I am including the link to the playhouse site.
Appreciate the hilarity of the writing of this work, enjoy the stellar performances, full of energy, put on by all the actors. Be thankful, perhaps, that your family ISN'T like this one...or like myself, come away, almost wishing they were.