Creative staging lends ‘character’: A theatre review

Published 4:29 pm Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Away from their W. Canal Street home, director Gladys Hughes chose to debut Picayune On Stage’s latest production “Over the River and Through the Woods, by Joe DiPietro, at the Hide-A-Way Lake Restaurant, The Water’s Edge – dinner theatre style – providing a rare treat to residents of the Carriere Subdivision last weekend. The show is scheduled to reopen on the POS stage on April 11.

Playing to a sold out house on Friday night, this delightful, family-friendly show served up more ‘meat’ than your usual dinner theatre ‘fare’. The poignant monologues and poetic asides offered relief from what could have been a night of slapstick one-liners.

Although the temporary environs created challenges for both the lighting and staging, in a pre-show speech, Hughes explained the expected conundrum and asked the audience to have an extra helping of ‘suspension of disbelief’. In a show where the characters often break the fourth wall to talk directly to the audience, the creative staging only served to enhance the production by allowing the audience to be more directly involved in the action. By placing the dinette set off the stage and into the audience, dinner in the Gianelli home was enjoyed by everyone. Hughes and assistant director Bonnie Hughes deserve praise for making it all work.

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Clearly having already found their rhythm, the ensemble cast did a great job of listening to and working off each other. They seamlessly adapted to the foreign set-up and became more confident as the show progressed.

The cast includes: Nick Chatelain, Nick; Joseph Navoy, Frank Gianelli; Jessica Lacour, Aida Gianelli; R. Lane Reynolds, Nunzio Cristano; Shannon Catoire, Emma Cristano and Ashley Taylor, Caitlin O’Hare.

“Over the River and Through the Woods” is about an Italian-American family living in Hoboken, N.J. The theme revolves around “the three f’s – family, faith and food”. It also deals with the generational chasm between a young man and his grandparents. The show enjoyed a stint Off Broadway at the John Houseman Theatre in New York, opening on October 5, 1989. DiPietro also wrote the successful musical revue, “I love you, You’re Perfect, Now Change”.

Before the show, Hughes said that she hoped anyone with even a drop of Italian blood in them would love the show. She also hoped that anyone without a drop of Italian blood in them would love the show.

Italian or not, anyone with a family, or anyone else who makes you crazy, will love this show. It reminds you why you can’t wait to leave home, and why you absolutely can’t wait to go back.