Italian Family Comedy 'Over the River' at Sunset Playhouse
Veteran local actors draw a warm and comic gravity to the stage in Sunset Playhouse’s production of Over the River and Through the Woods. Joe DiPietro’s comedy features Ben Braun as an Italian American from New Jersey who has been promoted to a lucrative position on the other side of the country. He tries to break the news to his four grandparents who do their best not to a make a big deal about wanting him to stay.
Braun is charming enough in the role, but the real appeal here is the cast assembled to portray his family. Director Brian Zelinski fosters a dynamic in the old family ensemble that feels compellingly organic. Nowhere is this more apparent than in mundane moments between the characters. There’s a sparklingly humble reality in moments where they’re all there in the living room having crumb cake or sharing some kind of inane conversation over a game of Trivial Pursuit.
Joan End is endearing as an Italian grandmother determined that everyone be fed. Scott Kopischke plays her husband with a well-worn dignity drawn from a kind of casual interpersonal fearlessness. Raffaello Frattura puts in a captivatingly nuanced performance as Nunzio, a man of uniquely instinctive humor who is given to inner struggles that allow for deep personal drama. Frattura’s performance delivers as much in silence as it does in deceptively simple dialogue. Linda Wirth gives one of her more potent recent performances as his wife, who tries to set her grandson up with a reason for staying in the form of a compassionate woman delicately portrayed by Deanna Strasse.
Through Sept. 24 at the Furlan Auditorium, 800 Elm Grove Rd. For tickets, visit sunsetplayhouse.com.