SPRING HILL — When it comes to connecting with local audiences, what could be better than a story about doting New Jersey Italian-American grandparents and their loving, but ambitious grandson who is ready to get on with his life, even if it means moving from New York City to Seattle for a better job, thus ending his regular Sunday visits with them?
It gets even more pertinent when it's revealed that the young man's parents have moved to Florida, leaving both sets of his grandparents in Hoboken with only Nick left behind for them to pamper and adore.
That's the setup for Over the River and Through the Woods, the comedy playing Feb. 9 to 19 at the Forum at Stage West Community Playhouse. It's a reprise for the 1994 show, which was first produced at Stage West in 2003.
In it, 29-year-old Nick (Christian Braz, Capt. Hook in Peter Pan), a single NYC marketing manager, has been offered his dream job in Seattle. Nick takes his weekly trek over the river and through the woods to tell his grandparents, knowing that it isn't going to sit well with grandfather Frank (Ernie Rowland, HAMI as Norman in On Golden Pond) and grandmother Aida (Betsy Glasson, HAMI as Ethel in On Golden Pond), or with grandfather Nunzio (Gary Kopitzke) and grandmother Emma (Barbara Santoro, Mrs. Fitzgerald in Cheaper by the Dozen).
Playwright Joe DiPietro (I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change) pulls out all the grandparent jokes — one grandmother calls the VCR Nick gave her a CPU; another offers him food every time he brings up the possible job move; one grandfather refuses to turn on the air conditioner until July 4, never mind the sweltering heat, and they all go through wacky word association gyrations while playing Trivial Pursuit, only to come up with the wrong answer.
There must be a solution to this crisis of Nick's possible departure. And leave it to a grandmother to come with the best: Get Nick a girlfriend who will keep him from leaving NYC.
Okay, so the prospective girlfriend isn't Italian — she's Irish — but at least she's a good Catholic girl. Indeed, lovely young Caitlin (Savannah Smith, the teacher in Cheaper by the Dozen) seems just the right person to keep Nick from moving.
It's the eternal struggle between obligation and ambitious personal fulfillment, something almost everyone has faced and could face in the future.