Family Stories Moore OnStage Presents Off-Broadway Success
BY MARY ELLE HUNTER
Special to The Pilot
A play about the importance of family relationships is the newest production of Moore OnStage, being performed Wednesday, March 23, through Sunday, March 27 at the Sunrise Theater.
Created by playwright Joe diPietro, "Over the River and Through the Woods" was a hit off Broadway, which was followed by his other successful works "I Love you, You're Perfect, Now Change" and the musical comedy "Memphis," which won diPietro the Tony Award for Best Book for a Musical last year.
The title of this audience-pleaser brings back memories of the old song, the first line of which ends "to Grandmother's house we go." And naturally, the scenario of "Over the River and Through the Woods" deals with a young man who has been very close to both sets of his grandparents, until he upsets the proverbial apple-cart by telling them that he is moving across the country to take a new position. All sorts of schemes are hatched by the four grandparents to dissuade him.
Jerry Sipp, the director of this true-to-life comedy, says that the cast hasn't been able to get through one single rehearsal without at least one or more of the actors "cracking up" the others, with the result that "we all end up doubling over with laughter."
Likewise, Sipp believes the cast has never gotten through a rehearsal without someone wiping away a tear or two.
"It's a rare play which can combine hilarity and sadness with realism and sincerity," he says.
The central character of Nick has a love/drive-me-crazy relationship with his grandparents, Sipp says.
"The four older people have worked their entire lives to make a better world for their offspring and their grandchildren, but there is a widening generation gap as the younger members of the family mature, with the grandparents feeling left behind," he says. "No matter if you've ever been a grandparent, a parent or a grandchild, you will find this play pertinent to all generations."
Directing and acting in more than 200 productions during his exceptional and varied theatrical career in North Carolina, Sipp served as artistic director for Temple Theatre in Sanford, and director for the Playhouse Theatre in Rocky Mount. A recent move to the New York area involves a concentration on playwriting, and he is also preparing to return to the stage as an actor with a new production company that focuses on presenting works in the suburbs of New York City.
"Over the River and Through the Woods" presents some of the best-known and talented actors in the Sandhills. The two sets of grandparents are played by Don Bridge and Loretta Aldridge and Sarah Edwards with newcomer to Moore OnStage, Don Cox.
According to Bridge, one of the area's most active and versatile theater people, "The play is funny, it is touching, and as an actor, you make the audience laugh, you make them cry - it's got it all."
Loretta Aldridge, who plays opposite Don Bridge, is on stage for the fourth time in less than a year, having been seen previously in "The Dining Room," "Dearly Departed" and "Social Security."
Don Cox, with an impressive background as an administrator of two large performing arts halls and a 35-year career as a college professor teaching musical theater courses, is at home as a performer as well.
Offering some insight into his character, he says, "Every stage of life has its own challenges, and there comes a time when you have to let your children go, and we have to find our own place without them."
Sarah Edwards, who appeared in the Moore OnStage productions of Evita. Master Class and Big River, believes most people, expecting comedy, will get caught up in the emotional facet in the script.
"Audience members will be able to relate to the characters," says Edwards.
As Nick, the grandson, Sean Smith has slipped into the role very easily, thanks to similar experiences with his own grandparents. He has film and television, as well as theater, credits, having recently worked on a television pilot and also been cast as a host for a spin-off of an ongoing television show. Local audiences will remember his performances in "A Streetcar Named Desire," "Moon Over Buffalo," "Dearly Departed" and earlier this month in "Crimes of the Heart."
A would-be romantic interlude between Nick and Caitlin, a friend of one of the grandmothers, is the subject of an elaborate sub-plot, but Caitlin, played by Ashley Laughter, is struggling with the problem of just where she fits into the picture of the Italian grandparents and their grandson. Laughter, who also stage manages the production, has a degree in theater arts and dance from Catawba College, and aside from performing, she has worked as the campaign coordinator for Georgia's State Theatre, the Springer Opera House.
The cast thinks that they have a winner on their hands in "Over the River and Through the Woods."
"The people you meet on stage are all good people, with good intentions, a few eccentricities, to be sure," says Sipp. "The play is witty and poignant and realistically addresses issues of family relationships with a rewarding point of view."
The backstage crew consists of Doug Fry as set designer, Lester Seidenberg on lights, costumes by Susanna Turner, and props by executive producer Cinny Beggs. "Over the River and Through the Woods" is sponsored by Dr. Christine Gatti of Dogwood Dental.
Tickets for performances at the Sunrise Theater Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. may be reserved by calling (910) 692-7118, and are $22 (adults) and $15 (students under 18). There is special pricing on Wednesday night, March 23: $15 for all seats.
Contact Pinehurst freelance writer Mary Elle Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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