MORRIS – Nick is close with his family, except everyone but his grandparents have moved away: his sister to San Diego, his parents to Florida, so he’s left in New Jersey with his four Italian grandparents.
They’re from the old country, and are fond of shouting, “Tengo famiglia.” Literally, it means “I have a family,” but it means so much more than that in Italian.
“It means ‘I am a man,’ ” his grandfather Frank says.
So when Nick, 29, gets the opportunity of a lifetime, the fact that it will take him away from his grandparents looms large in his decision.
“Over the River and Through the Woods” is about letting go, director Jim Stewart said.
“It’s a really fun, endearing show,” he said.
One of the challenges Stewart said he faced in putting the show together was to fit the entire living room on the stage. The play is in Grandpa Frank’s house – that he, a master carpenter, built himself for his bride – and to fit all of the furniture and accoutrements on the smaller stage at the Morris Theatre Guild required some creativity.
Some doors were modified, one became a window, and it all fit on stage.
“We needed all the space we could get,” Stewart said.
And there were the props. Being an Italian family, most of the props used are food.
“It’s real food, with red sauce,” said Judy Miller, who plays grandmother Emma. “Lots of food.”
The actors need to be careful,
she said, because real food leads to
“It’s about making choices for your life plan,” Miller said.
Her character, Emma, reminds Nick that he should marry and settle down with a nice girl soon.
“Before I die,” Emma said.
When Nick breaks the news to his family, there is the predictable uproar. How could he leave them? Why can’t he stay?
Nick says that he is young, with no wife or kids, and that there is nothing keeping him in his hometown. The promotion is a wonderful opportunity. But after Nick goes home, and the drama of the grandparents dies down, Emma sets the action of the play in motion.
“We’ll give him a reason to stay,” she says.
It’s not all seriousness, however. Miller said that, when the cast did their first table read, it was filled with laughter.
“We had to go through it a few times before we could say the lines without laughing,” she said.
Miller said the show is for anyone with a family, and perfect for the time around Mother’s Day, especially with a Sunday matinee.
“Bring grandma,” Miller said. “She would love it.”
If You Go
What: Morris Theatre Guild’s “Over the River and Through the Woods”
When: 7:30 p.m. May 10, 11, 17, 18, 2:30 p.m. May 12, 19
Where: Morris Theatre Guild, 516 W. Illinois Ave., Morris
How Much: $15 pre-sale, $20 at the door, with $13 tickets for Seniors and $10 tickets for students