As directed by Rick Bindhamer, Joe DiPietro’s "Over the River and Through the Woods" is an often sloppy, sentimental tale about the value of family. But there’s one thing that may hook you, no matter how much you try to resist the ickiness.
Nick (Michael Marfey) lives alone in New Jersey, but is close to both sets of Italian-American grandparents, whom he sees every Sunday. A great job opportunity arises in Seattle. Which is more important, the job or the grandparents?
I didn’t much care about the answer during some of Theatre in the Valley’s production (I saw it at the Henderson Convention Center). The script is full of Italian cliches: the mother who won’t stop asking who’s hungry, the family that yells as a way of basic communication, the grandmother who thinks a vegetarian is an animal doctor.
But then something began happening about half-way through. I found I wanted to be a boy at this family’s dinner table. The cast members, against my wishes, got me to enjoy the warmth of their company.
Marilyn Atkins — who has the most cliched role of all as the doting, eat-eat-eat grandmother Aida — is perhaps the most human. She’s all giddy, girlish happiness, and you can see her eyes light up when she gets to make someone a lasagna.
Irv Atkins delivers his eccentric lines with a no-nonsense manner as Grandpa Nunzio, as if to suggest you’d be foolish to argue with any of his "truths."
And Susan Breene as Nunzio’s wife, Emma, comes off as the rock of the foursome. She has her ticks, but she’s rock-solid wise and practical — except for her penchant for having Masses said whenever there’s a problem.
Bindhamer doesn’t get in the way of the actors. He lets their clashes happen without any directorial fuss. Too many times, though, he hammers home the play’s themes. The finale finds Nick delivering a weepy monologue about what he’s learned from all this. The characters carry this play and they really don’t need any help from preachers.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.REVIEW
What: "Over the River and Through the Woods"
When: Various times and locations through nov. 22
Where: $10-$12 (558-7275)