Faith, family and food are holiday season mainstays. They're also the main themes in Joe DiPietro's "Over the River and Through the Woods."
Wichita Community Theatre's latest production of the show aims to get audiences in a yuletide mood by serving up a performance that is both humorous and heart-lifting. The play opened Dec. 2 and runs through Dec. 19 on Thursdays through Sundays.
The story centers on a close-knit Italian-American family living in New Jersey. Nick Christano, a late-20s marketing executive, loyally partakes in the Sunday ritual of dining with his four colorful grandparents. True to their cultural and religious roots, these weekly interactions are governed by an affinity for familial kinship, an abiding respect for religion and several hearty plates of food.
One Sunday, the usually buoyant occasion is subdued by an announcement. Nick has been offered a promotion — in Seattle. The news sets off a series of blue-haired highjinks aimed at enticing him to stay.
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The script aims to balance humor and poignancy. Anyone with grandparents or a closely connected family will feel right at home, according to director Rhys Brightwater. "Most of us will recognize our own grandparents in these characters," he said.
It's sometimes hard for young Nick to communicate his feelings about moving to his doting grandparents, mostly because they're usually busy serving him prosciutto sandwiches and cannolis.
When he does succeed in getting their attention, they seek to change his mind. A blind date is set up at the next Sunday dinner with an affable young woman.
Brightwater thinks it's the quirky moments that make the play memorable.
"It really is a very relatable script," he said. "We all have had moments like this dealing with our families."
Though heavy on humor, the play also aims to tug at the heart with the theme of having to say goodbye.
"Anyone who has ever had to see someone they love leave will really identify with this," Brightwater said. "The holidays are a time when we often miss people who have moved away or even passed on. This play pays homage to that feeling."
The cast includes Don Wineke, Misty Maynard, Jack Walker, Deb Campbell, Casey Eubank and Stephanie Dennis.
"We have a very strong and talented team," Brightwater said. "Many of these actors are Mary Jane Teall award-winners. "
Anyone looking for something fun and festive to do for the holidays will find the production entertaining, he said.
"The themes of this play — with emphasis on family, faith and food — all tie in really well for the holidays."
If you go
'over the river and through the woods'
What: Comedy by Joe DiPietro
Where: Wichita Community Theatre, 258 N. Fountain
When: 8 p.m. Thu.-Sat. and 7 p.m. Sun. through Dec. 19
How much: Tickets $12 adults, $10 military/senior/students. Reservations, 316-686-1282.