Faith, family and food.
Those are just a few of the themes people will recognize from their own families from Nanaimo Theatre Group’s latest production.
Mort Paul directs Over the River and Through the Woods, author Joe DiPietro’s tale of a young man leaving his New Jersey-based Italian-American family for career opportunities in Seattle.
“When you say faith, family and food, everyone has a story that relates,” Paul said. “It’s such an entertaining piece.”
The story surrounds Nick and his relationship with two sets of grandparents, who try to convince him to stay in New Jersey by employing a host of schemes, including introducing him to a pretty young woman.
It goes badly, as the grandparents tell embarrassing baby stories and the young woman is unhappy at how Nick reacts to his elders.
Much of the play is told through monologues directed at the audience, which gives a bit of insight into each character. At one point, Nick complains that his grandparents’ house is hot, as in “Ethiopia-in-the-summer hot.” And his grandmother is always trying to feed him.
The abundance of food was a challenge for the cast and crew as many of the scenes involve the characters sitting down to a meal. To reduce food waste, the props department came up with fake salad, spaghetti and meatballs, veal Parmesan, crumb cake and glazed popcorn. The cannelloni the characters eat is authentic, however.
“That was a big puzzle for us,” Paul said. “They sort of nibble at stuff.”
Over the River and Through the Woods is the play the group will take to the annual festival in Port Alberni in May. To make it portable, the set was designed without a house, using curtains and the wings to stand in for exits. Because of this, the focus is put on the actors.
“It’s an actors’ forum,” Paul said.
The play opens March 23 and runs until April 9 at 8 p.m. Matinees are scheduled at 2 p.m. on March 27 and April 3. Tickets $16-18 and available by calling 250-758-7224 or visiting www.nanaimotheatregroup.com.