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Monday, 10 January 2011 23:08

Generations generating laughs

Written by Bob Wilcox
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Generations generating laughs
www.theaterguildwg.org

Community theatres love Joe DiPietro's Over the River and Through the Woods. It has four juicy roles for actors who've been around for awhile, and community theatres always have plenty of actors who have been around for a while.

In this play these actors play two sets of grandparents, all of richly Italian extraction, who are neighbors in New Jersey. Their joint grandson visits them every Sunday for dinner. But grandson has been offered a promotion that would move him from Manhattan to Seattle, a little far for regular Sunday dinners. Complications arise as the grandparents try to persuade him to stay, even if it means arranging for him to meet a young woman he might settle down with where he is.

DiPietro, also known for the musical I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, creates colorful characters and amusing dialogue of the TV sitcom variety, and he rarely strains credulity too much. Of the plays that community theatres do over and over, this is one that bears repeating better than some.

The current production treads the boards at the Theatre Guild of Webster Groves under the experienced direction of Barbara Mulligan. Experienced actors Richard A. Hunsaker, Betsy Burnett-Belanger, Larry Zerega, and Deborah Dennert play the grandparents, though some of them seemed a little insecure in their lines at times when I was there, especially early on, and the pace sagged now and then. Quite secure and quite appealing is Matt Dossett as their grandson, and I was told that he was a late replacement for the actor originally cast in the role. As the vessel of the grandparents' marital hopes, Katie Schares makes her character pleasantly tolerant and self-possessed but perhaps more reserved than she needs to be.

The set by John Austermann and Barbara Mulligan reflects the tastes of its inhabitants, as do Betsy Burnett-Belanger's costumes. Lights at the Theatre Guild of Webster Groves, here by Debbie Love and Matthew Lindquist, never seem to have enough candlepower for the left side of the stage. Larry Zerega's sound is appropriately heavy on old Dean Martin numbers.

Over the River and Through the Woods passes the time pleasantly without an embarrassing amount of sentimentality. It continues at Theatre Guild of Webster Groves through Sunday, January 16, 2012. Tickets are available at 314-962-0876.

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