Go and do

WHAT: “Over the River and Through the Woods”

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 2-3 and 9-10; at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 8; at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 4 and 11; and at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 10

WHERE: The Public Theatre at Lisbon and Main streets, Lewiston

TICKETS: $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and students; $14 for groups of 10 or more. Call 782-3200.

Grandma and Grandpa, take a bow Meddling and micro-management set the stage for comedy and pathos in The Public Theatre’s ‘Over the River and Through the Woods’

LEWISTON – There’s a bit of everybody’s grandparents in the upcoming production of “Over the River and Through the Woods” at The Public Theatre.

This delightful family comedy opening Friday, May 2, is about grandparents and the people they drive crazy. It fits right into TPT’s mold of a light and fun-filled springtime show to top off their season. A Saturday matinee on May 10, Mother’s Day weekend, has been added to the schedule.

This crowd-pleasing comedy was written by Joe DiPietro, author of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.”

The plot of “Over the River and Through the Woods” revolves around Nick Cristano, a 29-year-old man brought up to live by the three Fs: family, faith and food. It has been a tradition for Nick to have Sunday dinners with his four Italian-American grandparents, but that’s about to change as he announces plans to leave Hoboken for a job promotion in Seattle.

That presents a crisis for the older folks and their cherished routine.

It calls for mobilization of a master plan to keep Nick near them.

At the heart of their meddling and micro-management of Nick’s life is a plan to invite a lovely young woman named Caitlin to dinner with the hope that it will lead to romance, marriage and, of course, grandchildren.

The dinner is a disaster.

None of the grandparents can understand Caitlin’s explanation of “vegetarianism” and they praise her skills as an animal doctor. Nevertheless, when circumstances force Nick to spend several days at the house, he really gets to know his grandparents.

Janet Mitchko, who directs this production, said the play is “a perfect blend of comedy and pathos.” She said everyone in the audience is going to recognize many familiar things they see in their own grandparents.

She also noted that the most rib-tickling game of Trivial Pursuit ever played is one of the highlights of “Over the River and Through the Woods.”

Portraying Nick, the grandson in this heartfelt comedy, is New York actor Brian Hoffman. He was last seen at TPT in the film-noir farce “Red Herring.”

Caitlin, his blind date for the evening, is played by Sarah Koestner, who was last seen as the nurse in TPT’s production of “A Month of Sundays.”

Mitchko remarked that it has been a delight to rehearse this cast “because it has been kind of like being with my own family.” She said the four older actors bonded very quickly both on and off the set. They continue their on-stage tight-knot relationships right into the breaks where they obviously enjoy each other’s company.

There is a wealth of theatrical background among the grandparents of the cast. It ranges from Broadway to feature films and television, as well as many regional theater appearances.

Boston-based actor Michael Dell’Orto plays Frank, Nick’s maternal grandfather. Dell’Orto, who lives in New Hampshire, has extensive credits throughout a 31-year professional acting career. It’s his debut on the TPT stage.

Nick’s maternal grandmother Aida is portrayed by Andrea Gallo. Besides a long list of stage credits, she is a frequent narrator of recorded books. She received a Fulbright grant for study in France, and she has completed 12 marathons.

Nick’s paternal grandparents Nunzio and Emma (also referred to as “the loudest people you’ve ever met”) are played by Bill Van Horn and Carole Schweid.

Schweid recently completed shooting a feature film, some “Webisodes” for MacDonald’s and two independent films. She was in Broadway’s original cast of “A Chorus Line.”

Audiences may recognize Van Horn, although it will be his first time on TPT’s stage. The Philadelphia-based actor is popular for seasonal appearances at The Theatre at Monmouth. He recently directed “The Odd Couple” at Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre. This summer, he will play Shylock and Jonathan Brewster at the Theater at Monmouth. Next winter, he will play Walt Whitman in “O Captain My Captain,” a new play at the Walnut Street Theatre.

Last productions of TPT’s season are traditionally the time for its annual fundraising silent auction, which happens in the lobby during the run of the production.

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