Family, Faith, and Food are three important themes in Over the River and Through the Woods, a play by Joe DiPietro, and the latest show at Stagewest Community Playhouse. It’s a play about life and the struggle for independence and autonomy versus love of family and tradition. It’s about human nature, our idiosyncrasies, and the choices we make.
Nicky, played by Christian Braz, loves his Italian Catholic Grandparents dearly and every Sunday he dutifully goes to their house for dinner. However, he longs for something more. He’s tired of their annoying habits (keeping the house way too hot, eating constantly, and the quirky way they play Trivial Pursuit- just to name a few) and wants to move across the country to make a name for himself. Just like many people do in real life, what Nick fails to realize is that the grass is always greener on the other side. Even though his grandparents can be overbearing and emotionally manipulative at times, they usually have good intentions. They value family above all and cherish the time spent with him.
Director Sandy Penwarden did a great job of taking over the reins for this emotional yet funny play. She has been the stage manager for 11 plays, but Over the River and Through the Woods is her directorial debut. She took over for Legally Blonde Jr’s Jennifer Villardi, who reluctantly had to resign because of health issues. Penwarden says “I feel so blessed to have this play, this cast and crew for my directorial debut... I cannot say enough about the work ethic of everyone connected with this play and also with this theatre… I hope everyone enjoys this show as much as we enjoy presenting it to you.” Luckily, Villardi is better now, and based on the performance I saw, I’m sure she’d be proud of the work that Penwarden, as well as the cast and crew, has done.
Over the River and Through the Woods runs through February 19 at Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd Spring Hill, FL. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students. Contact the box office at 352-683-5113 for more information.