Ah, grandparents ... What kid wouldn't agree that having Gram and Gramps fawn over you like you were the most special person in the world is just the best thing ever? Your favorite meals get prepared for you, followed by plentiful offerings of chocolate cake and ice cream; you enjoy countless humorous and moving tales of when your grandparents met, woven in with stories of how cute you and your parents were as babies; and, of course, there's the endless hugs you receive because of the above-mentioned most special person thing. What could be better, right?
Well ... it's safe to say those same scenarios played over and over again lose some of their charm when said grandchild turns say, 29-the very age of Nick, the main character in the Boise Little Theater comedy Over the River and Through the Woods, opening June 3. Nick's parents, you see, were the smart ones-retiring to sunny Florida, leaving poor Nick (that's "Nicky") to watch over both sets of his doting grandparents, proud Italians living harmoniously together in Hoboken, N.J., sometime during the latter '70s.
Nick (Jared Stull) shatters his grandparents' bliss one day by announcing that a work promotion will mean a move for him across the country to Seattle. Naturally, the news doesn't sit well with his four elders, who already feel deserted by Nick's parents. They soon concoct a scheme to make Nick stay by inviting young, unattached Caitlin (Becky Jaynes) to Sunday dinner and doing everything they can to ignite sparks between Caitlin and Nick.
What ensues is a funfest of family sparring that, in particular, gives the actors playing the four grandparents (Don Mummert, Virgil Doyle, Gus Pollio and Jean Hochstrasser) delightful turns in the spotlight.
The Sunday lovers setup is a mere warm-up for the riotous events to come. One of the best moments is in Act II when a game of Trivial Pursuit turns into a verbal table tennis match with the seniors lofting seemingly pointless memories back and forth to somehow get to the right answers on the cards.
For director and self-described theater junkie Kevin Kimsey, Over the River marks his 26th consecutive Boise-area play over five years to have either directed or performed in. The show appealed to him, he said, because it presents a satisfying merging of strong characters in both their 20s and 70s. Doyle's character, Aida, also strongly reminded Kimsey of his own maternal grandmother, whom he said "loved to put food in your face."
Over the River has become somewhat a walk down memory lane for two of the show's actors. Doyle only recently relocated to Boise from the New York area, where she sang in the chorus of an Italian opera company during the '60s, performing (among other things) Verde's La Traviata. Pollio, who is Italian and also hails from the East Coast, said the play "makes me homesick for New York, and good Italian food."
"The play is cleverly written. It's a good one for audience involvement," said Mummert, a veteran Boise Little Theater performer and director whose first stage appearance for the company dates back to 1953. "I'm always typecast as the great-grandfather now," he joked, but quickly added, "I never get tired of doing this."
8 p.m., June 3, 4, 9-12, 15-18 (Sundays at 2 p.m, Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.), Boise Little Theater, 100 E. Fort St., 342-5104.