Kent County Theatre Guild takes a family trip ‘Over the River and Through the Woods’

From left, John Marino as Nunzio, Patti Gatto as Emma, Teresa Pierce as Caitlin, Terry Doane as Nick, Chris Polo as Aida and John Zinzi as Frank in “Over the Hill and Through the Woods.” (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — The tale of an Italian-American family from New Jersey is making its way to the Patchwork Playhouse in the Kent County Theatre Guild’s rendition of “Over the River and Through the Woods.”

“It’s not a well-known play,” director Mike Polo said. “But I read the synopsis and thought it was such a neat idea to do a play that is about real life, and circumstances that so many people actually deal with.”

Just like real life, the play is a mix of comedy and drama with both conflicts and resolutions.

“There are only six characters in the show but in each of them, you’ll see something familiar — something that reminds you of someone you know,” Mr. Polo said.

Mr. Polo was practically raised with the Kent County Theatre Guild — his parents joined soon after the founding in the 1950s, Mr. Polo met his wife Chris, who is also in the play, through the guild and he estimates that he’s been involved in more than 100 productions in various capacities.

In the play which opens June 16, Nick Cristano is a single man whose parents have retired to Florida but his

Chris Polo as Aida , left, and Terry Doane as Nick. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

grandparents are still in Jersey.

When he tells them that a new job will take to Seattle, a series of schemes start to keep Nick around, including bringing the single Caitlin O’Hare to one of their Sunday dinners.

John Marino of Lewes, who plays Nick’s grandfather, Nunzio, is performing the show for a second time His first was in The Bronx, New York in the mid-1990s.

“I played (the other grandfather) Frank in that production and the writer (Joe DiPietro) was very involved. It was great to work with him and he kept writing and even later won a Tony,” he said.

“My wife knew that show was a great experience for me and when she saw online that the Theatre Guild was doing the show she signed me up to audition.”

Mr. Marino Nunzoi is a great character to play.

“Nunzio is fun-loving. He doesn’t let misfortune overshadow him. But most of all, he loves his wife of 60 years.”

Nunzio’s wife, Emma is played by Theatre Guild veteran Patti Gatto of Dover.

“I had heard about the play before and knew it was about this Italian family and my husband is Italian and this play makes me feel like I’m at the dinner table with his family,” she said.

It also has all the complications that a real life family has, including generational conflicts.

Teresa Pierce as Caitlin, left, and Terry Doane as Nick. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“The play shows the inner workings of an extended family and one of the things grandchildren face with their grandparents is how different their lifestyles are,” Mr. Marino said.

“The grandparents have mixed emotions seeing their grandson pursue a successful career because he lives in a different world than they did so success is defined differently for them.”

And as Nick, played by Terry Doane, follows success, his career takes him away from his tight-knit family.

“The play is so much like what people go through in real life,” Mr. Polo said.

“Everyone gets older and you have to make certain choices to become the person you need to be and it’s not always easy for everyone to accept those choices. The play is able to portray that but with a decent amount of humor thrown in.”

Nick is facing the challenges many young adults do.

Terry Doane, right, as Nick hugs John Zinzi as Frank. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“He goes through what most people do in early adulthood – from your early 20s to early 30s. He’s successful and ambitious so his career may take him far from home but he still feels a duty to stay close to his family,” said Mr. Doane. “I had never heard of the play before but it’s great — really accurate.”

Mr. Doane is originally from Alaska and is stationed at Dover Air Force Base and is taking the stage for the first time in almost a decade.

“I have a degree in theater but hadn’t used it in a long time so my wife and a co-worker encouraged me to audition. It’s definitely fun.”

And the fun is what keeps all the actors coming back.

“It’s a great hobby to have,” Ms. Gatto said. “It’s always fun and the people are always great.”

Also in the play is Ms. Polo as grandmother Aida, John Zinzi as Frank and Teresa Pierce as Caitlin.

“Over the River and Through the Woods” will be staged June 16, 17, 23 and 24 at 8 p.m. and on June 18 and 25 at 2 p.m.

General admission tickets are $18, $16 for military and seniors, $15 for students and children under 13 are $10. They can be purchased online at www.kctg.org, by phone at 302-674-3568, or at the door. The Patchwork Playhouse is on Roosevelt Ave. in Dover.

Ashton Brown is a freelance writer living in Dover.

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