If you want to complete the play title “Over the River and Through the Woods” with “. . . to grandmother’s house we go,” well, you’ll be partly correct. In Joe DiPietro’s 2008 comedy, this is not a young boy but a beloved – and also grownup – grandson who is visiting, and all four of his grandparents are on hand. Our hapless hero Nick (played by Enrique A. Bobadilla) wants to move across the country when he is promoted at work. His loving but overbearing grandparents don’t want him going anywhere, and to that end, they have tricked a young single woman, Caitlyn (Jennifer Marco), to come and dine with them as well, hoping that love at first site will convince Nick to change his mind.
“Life isn’t in black and white, but shades of grey,” says director Jordana Lawrence. “That’s what this play brings forth, things that happen within a family or between generations. It’s one perspective versus another in this play.”
The play opens tonight at Carpinteria’s Plaza Playhouse and runs through July 26.
Billed as a comedy, it’s more of a drama with the comedy arising from the sharply drawn characters, Ms. Lawrence says.
Nick’s usual Sunday dinner at his grandparents’ house is the setting for the play, with Gene Garcia and Judy Mulford playing Frank and Ida. Ken Volok and Mickey Flacks play the other set of grandparents, Nunzio and Emma.
And as all four have a way of pushing Nick’s buttons as they try to bend him to his will, he lashes out, which Caitlyn, who has no idea why she’s really been invited, does not like. So things don’t start off well. Oh, and Caitlyn’s Irish, while everybody else is Italian-American.
Ms. Lawrence cast the play – like all plays at the Plaza – through open auditions. “There is so much talent in this town, that it’s nice to see who are the new people who we can give a chance. Our lead has only come to acting in the last few years. Another actor has been in plays, but never with this amount of lines. The other half are seasoned actors . . . I’m loving watching these actors blossom.”
At the Plaza, Ms. Lawrence directed the “Old Time Radio Shows,” “Lone Star” and “Laundry & Bourbon.” Before that Ms. Lawrence had a long career at Bishop Diego High for eight years until the high school cut back its drama department last year. (Though that didn’t stop her former students from rallying to mount their own production, something she’s delighted to hear.)
After teaching kids, it’s easier to work with adults, she says. “I got the sense near the end (of teaching) that the kids weren’t interested in the technical part of theater or how to use their imagination. It was a battle to get them to use it and to want to use it. But you say one thing to adults and they get it, and they do it, and they’re not arguing with you! They want to be there and they enjoy the process.”
Not to mention that she doesn’t have to grade four times a year.
“To just direct? What a luxury,” Ms. Lawrence laughs. “I didn’t know it was going to be this good or this much fun.”
“Over the River and Through the Woods”
When: 8 p.m. tonight through July 26 (3 p.m. Sunday and July 26)
Where: Plaza Playhouse Theater, 4916 Carpinteria Ave., Carpinteria
Information: (805) 684-6380, www.plazatheatercarpinteria.com