ShareThis Page
Theater

Family values, ties pull heartstrings at St. Vincent production

| Tuesday, June 14, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
St. Vincent Summer Theatre's 'Over the River and Through the Woods' features (from left) Steve Greenstein, Gael Schaefer, Ronald Siebert and Cary Anne Spear. Standing are Patrick Cannon  and Jenny Malarkey
St. Vincent Summer Theatre
St. Vincent Summer Theatre's 'Over the River and Through the Woods' features (from left) Steve Greenstein, Gael Schaefer, Ronald Siebert and Cary Anne Spear. Standing are Patrick Cannon and Jenny Malarkey

An ambitious young man must choose between his career aspirations and family loyalty in the warm-hearted comedy “Over the River and Through the Woods.” The play is the latest offering from St. Vincent Summer Theatre in Unity.

Every week, Italian-American marketing executive Nick Cristano, 29, joins his four immigrant grandparents for their traditional Sunday dinner in Hoboken, N.J. Nick is their only descendent left in the area, and he receives their full attention, whether he wants it or not. When he is offered his dream job in Seattle, his grandparents hatch a plot to keep him in town. The centerpiece of this plot is Caitlin O'Hare, an attractive young woman they invite to dinner. Caitlin catches Nick's eye, but will it be enough to make him change his plans?

“People will see their families and grandparents in the characters, both in the humor and in the more touching moments,” director Greggory Brandt says.

Brandt has set the show in the 1980s, but the story could take place at any time. “Society changes and time changes, but family is still No. 1,” he says. “No matter how busy life becomes, family still matters. That's why I picked the play and love the play.”

Patrick Cannon has the lead role of Nick. The play begins as Nick finds out he has earned the promotion that will take him far away from his grandparents. His feelings are mixed as he goes to see them midweek to tell them that he will not be at the family's Sunday dinner.

Nick's situation is one that many Western Pennsylvanians — including Cannon — can relate to. “There is a universal quality to the story that transcends those particular people,” Cannon says. “A lot of the laughs are rooted in the relatability. The audience will see their family in this family.”

Nick's paternal grandmother, Emma Cristano, is played by Cary Anne Spear. “Emma and Nunzio are active and vibrant and trying hard to be with it and enjoying the heck out of life,” Spear says. Even so, they remain grounded in their Italian traditions.

Spear acted in another production of the play 15 years ago and says that if she had to pick only one play to be in for the rest of her life, it would be this one. “It was as if you took the whole audience to Lourdes, because of how gratified and fulfilled they were,” she says.

Steve Greenstein is cast as grandfather Frank Gianelli. Greenstein grew up in an immigrant neighborhood in the Bronx and brings that experience to his characterization of Frank as a devoted family man. “These people are still very much alive in our country,” he says.

Greenstein hopes that young adults will come to see the show. “They'll understand themselves better, they'll understand the American Dream better, and they'll understand their grandparents better,” he says.

The production also features Gael Schaefer as Aida Gianelli, Ronald H. Siebert as Nunzio Cristano and Jenny Malarkey as Caitlin O'Hare.

Cynthia Helzel is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me