FORT MILL — Special to the Fort Mill Times
Times have changed, and for one ambitious man this means he has to choose between building his career and keeping his family together.
The Fort Mill Community Playhouse performance of “Over the River and through the Woods” tells the story of the career-minded 29-year-old Nicky Cristano, who wants to move to Seattle for his dream job.
However, the move would mean a separation from his loving, but clingy, Italian grandparents, with whom he has dinner every Sunday per tradition.
Desperate to keep their grandson nearby, Frank and Aida Gianelli and Nunzio and Emma Cristano team up in an attempt to find Nicky true love.
“They are convinced that if he finds a girlfriend, Nicky’s life will be perfect and he will stay,” assistant director Tom Moody said.
Set in the Gianellis’ home in Hoboken, N.J., during the 1990s, the play captures the generation gaps seen during the changing era when relationships were no longer formed over the dinner table, Moody said.
“Can you imagine your grandmother setting you up?” he said.
Nicky’s love interest, Caitlin O’Hare, played by Julia Benfield, brings hilarity and drama to the household as dinners become a matchmaking affair and things don’t exactly go as the grandparents planned.
Caitlin differs from Nicky – she has a greater appreciation of what her grandparents, who have passed away, gave to her.
“Caitlin has a perpetual feeling of loss,” Benfield said. “She’s a work in progress.”
However, Nicky still takes his grandparents for granted and expects them to be around forever.
“He is always thinking about the next step, not what is right in front of him,” said Daniel Marshall, who plays Nicky. “He’s like a lot of people our age.”
Frank Gianelli, played by Brett Reed, is in his 70s and has already seen his daughter and other grandchildren move away when Nicky breaks the news of his job to them.
“Frank doesn’t want to see more of his family move apart from him,” Reed said.
The show’s director, Susan Capotosto first directed the play 12 years ago and has a special interest in the story, having married into an Italian family.
Frank’s character was inspired by Capotosto’s father-in-law, Rosario, who is 90 and lives on New York’s Long Island. Nicky is a reflection of Capotosto’s husband, who was the first to leave his parents’ home.
Moody said the play shows how families have become divided over the generations.
“It’s very deep,” he said.
However, the drama that comes with family matchmaking and a combination of Catholic, Italian and New York heritages ensures the play will keep audiences laughing and crying throughout, Moody said.
“It’s a roller coaster of a good time,” Reed said. “People will be calling their grandparents afterwards.”
Capotosto said the cast has exceeded her expectations.
“The audience is going to fall in love with them,” she said.
The play was written by Joe DiPietro and is used with permission by the Fort Mill Community Playhouse.