By: Sabrina Michael
If you have ever been set up on a blind date; if you have ever had grandparents who fed you exorbitant amounts of food; if you have ever wanted to follow your ambitions in far off cities; if you have ever felt the sting of loneliness and the desire for a relationship; if you have ever feared leaving your family, then you will immediately connect with TMU’s production of “Over the River and Through the Woods.” If you have lived and loved, then this show will enchant you.
Nick Cristano, played by Seth Bowling, is the young and beloved grandson of two sets of Italian-American immigrant grandparents who are used to his company at weekly family dinners. After Nick gets an offer he almost cannot refuse, a promotion that will take him from Hoboken, N.J. to Seattle, Wash.—nearly 3,000 miles away—there is a gravity that sets in. He’s single, unattached and has nothing holding him back, so why not? Cue the beautiful, lovely and single Caitlin O’Hare, played by Ryley Breithaupt, who just happens to show up for a family dinner thanks to a timely invitation from the quartet of well-meaning grandparents.
Six years ago, this show was performed by the TMU Theatre Arts program and James Phillipps, now assistant director, played Nick in the first production. “When we got to this show, we didn’t want to just recreate what we did six years ago. We wanted to bring a new generation and what each of them brings to the show,” Phillipps said. “Getting to watch them bring their own flavor to each of the characters and looking at it saying, ‘That’s different than what I would do, but I like that,’ has been really fun.”
Over the last decade the department has put on a series of community hits such as “Fiddler on the Roof,” which sold out all six shows and added a seventh show due to demand. They have performed Agatha Christie’s “Black Coffee” and “Mousetrap,” Patrick Quentin’s “Meet Me in St. Louis,” Christopher Sergel’s adaptation of “Cheaper by the Dozen,” and more.
“All of the shows are unique,” Director Tricia Hulet said. “But, this one has always held a special place. A lot of things started with this show, [cast and crew] testimonies being one. The show itself is one of my favorites: you laugh so hard one minute and the next minute you realize it is real life. That is hard to do well.”
Phillipps shared a similar perspective, “It’s hilarious, it’s well written and it had the most heart for a lot of us… it reflects a lot of what the program prioritizes: family, making decisions, growing up and how to do that in a way that is honoring to Christ. The show isn’t written by a Christian, but those things are there.”
“Over the River” asks, “What is the value of family?” “Where does a person put their identity?” “What are those things in life that you want?” “How will you choose to pursue them?”
DiPietro pulled his title from the poem written by Lydia Maria Child, “Over the River and Through the Wood,” less commonly knowns as “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day.” He celebrates the nostalgic memories of grandchildren visiting their grandparents. TMU Theatre Arts’ production of “Over the River and Through the Woods” reminds every audience member of family meals around the table—the bickering and laughter—and ultimately leave them questioning what it means to be family.
Join The Master’s University on Oct. 20-21 and Oct. 26-27 for “Over the River and Through the Woods.” Tickets can be purchased at www.masters.edu/theatre or at the box office by calling 661.362.2255.