Problem Grandchild

Over the River and Through the Woods charms like an Italian crooner

When Nick is finally allowed to announce that he is thinking about taking a job in Seattle, his grandparents scam to keep him close by. "He didn't say he wanted to move," says Grandma Emma (Barbara Beirbrier) as if justifying what she is about to do. "He said he had no reason to stay." Emma then gives him a reason, inviting over "the unmarried niece of one of her canasta partners," the eye-pleasing Irish immigrant Caitlin O'Hare (finally an accent that sticks) for Sunday dinner. In what becomes the play's funniest scene, Nick's grandparents might as well have stripped him naked before Caitlin (Kelly Grandjean) as they reveal more than any first date has a right to know. In a clever reversal, Nick is actually attracted to Caitlin, which, of course, is not supposed to happen when your grandparents fix you up.

We all know what Nick ought to do: After all, he is 29 years old, which is pretty damn late in life for a coming-of-age play. He should move on, but after taking a nostalgic voyage with his endearing grandparents, we come to appreciate what is keeping him stuck. There is no formula for it, Nick laments. "How much do you owe those who care for you?" If there is any more subtext to his motivation it comes from the immigrant experience itself, from those many ethnic groups who came to America searching for a better life for their children than they had for themselves. But by better life, they didn't necessarily mean different life, and Nick is trapped between Old World values--tengo famiglia--and New World ambitions--getting ahead in the corporate workplace. This makes his crisis a bit more palpable, and by the play's bittersweet end, we collectively celebrate the world he may leave behind and the charming people who inhabit it.

Jeffrey Schmidt, center, plays a grandson trying to break free of his smothering grandparents in Over the River and Through the Woods, which features, from left to right, Ada Lynn, Hugh Feagin, Kelly Grandjean, Barbara Beirbrier and Loring Stevenson.
Andy Hanson
Jeffrey Schmidt, center, plays a grandson trying to break free of his smothering grandparents in Over the River and Through the Woods, which features, from left to right, Ada Lynn, Hugh Feagin, Kelly Grandjean, Barbara Beirbrier and Loring Stevenson.

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