Beginning January 24th, Dundas Little Theatre presents Over the River and Through the Woods, a comedic play with Italian flair by Joe DiPietro. The title riffs on lines from an old poem turned popular song, where the second line continues: “To grandfather’s (/grandmother’s) house we go.” Fittingly, it premiered in 1994 at the Belmont Italian American Playhouse in the Bronx, New York.
‘Nick Cristano’ is the pride and joy of a loving, boisterous quartet of New Jersey seniors who live two houses apart in Hoboken. Young Nick’s pursuing a career in New York City, but dutifully returns every Sunday (across the Hudson River) to have dinner with the family. When he drops the bombshell that he’s been offered a promotion in faraway Seattle, Nick throws the domestic routine into question and his grandparents into a collective tizzy. Unsurprisingly, some creative scheming ensues in the attempt to keep him closer to home.
Theatre website StageAgent calls Over the River and Through the Woods, “a warmhearted, boisterously funny, and touching story about intergenerational relationships, deep familial love, and the inevitable little heartbreaks that occur as time passes and children grow.”
Directed by Tamara Kamermans and produced by Brenda Ewing, the cast of the DLT production includes Peter Lloyd (Frank Gianelli), Ruth Flynn (Aida Gianelli), Rose Pye (Emma Cristano), and Erik Peters (Nunzio Cristano) as two sets of grandparents to Alex Tessier’s Nick Cristano. Rounding out the group is Caitlin Wierenga as ‘Caitlin O’Hare,’ a young nurse wrangled into the grandparents’ plans to keep unmarried Nick in the bosom of his family.
At 19, Alex Tessier is a relative newcomer to the stage, having completed his first year of studies at the University of Toronto, majoring in Drama. A multi talented musician with vocal training, Tessier has also had acting classes with award winning TV, film, and theatre actors Shaun Smyth and Juno Rinaldi.
Among Tessier’s growing list of credits are Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, an indie production of Da by Hugh Leonard, T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, and The Addams Family Musical at Westdale Secondary School. He also participated in The Worst: A Horror Radio Drama on the Mohawk College radio station, and is in an upcoming short film on the historic Whitehern family, affiliated with the City of Hamilton.
He says he’s ‘gotten something different from every role I’ve had,’ whether it was the lighthearted high school musical or the student production of a classic at university, and yearns to do more Shakespeare.
As for Over the River and Through the Woods, Tessier finds DiPietro’s script hilarious and relatable, saying the playwright has given actors a lot to work with in terms of characterization and nuance. He also has much praise for his fellow actors.
“I feel honoured that I get to work with everyone involved in [the show]. Peter, Ruth, Rose, and Erik are all such perfect fits for their roles, and there are moments when I just get to disappear into the chaos of it all and, for better or worse, I really am in the middle of this crazy household full of loud but adoring grandparents,” Alex explains. “Their hearts are really in it and it shows. I feel just as lucky as Nick should feel, but all the Catholic guilt.”
Tessier is thoughtful when asked about the challenges and pleasures of mounting a play: “The most challenging part [of the process] is also the best part for me: when you’re on stage and doing the real work of finding a balance of energies between actors and characters, finding a pace that serves the text, and connecting with the story while still remaining a character in it. The challenge of this ‘doublethink’ that has to occur in you, of knowing the story and your place in it but allowing yourself to be carried and moved by the plot... ultimately can be responsible for whether or not an audience is watching a play or watching a table read with movement and costumes.”
“It’s certainly one of the most rewarding things about an actor’s job: that we get to bring people together and bring a story to life in front of their eyes and ears.”
“The great thing about Over the River and Through the Woods is that there’s really something for everybody here,” Tessier says. “Whether you relate to it as a grandchild, a child, a parent, or a grandparent, this story contains pure honesty from its creator about the realities of family and love.” V
Over the River and Through the Woods
January 24, 25, 31 &
February 1, 6, 7, 8 at 8 PM
Matinees: February 2 & 9 at 2 PM
Dundas Little Theatre
37 Market St. South, Dundas
Reserve tickets by phone: (905) 627-5266, or buy at the door
Regular Seating: $20; Students/Seniors (65+): $15 (Thurs. & Sun. only)
Members Only Opening Night: $10
(current DLT members of & other
participating Community Theatre group members with ID)