Joe DiPietro's Over the River and Through the Woods, one of the great non-musical successes in Off Broadway history, closes Sept. 3 after 800 performances at the John Houseman Theatre.
The warm comedy about a grandson and his relationship with his four demonstrative Italian American grandparents played 20 previews before starting its regular run in 1998. It had an initial, formative staging at The Belmont Italian American Playhouse in April 1994. It was also heard at the 1994 Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center.
Prior to Off-Broadway, Over the River was also seen at The Berkshire Theatre Festival in 1997 and The American Stage Company in Teaneck, NJ, in 1996.
The current cast includes Ken Garito, John LaGioia, Elaine Kussack, David Little, Marie Lillo and Kerry O'Malley. Joel Bishoff directs.
The play takes place in the Hoboken home of the Gianelli grandparents. On July 28, Vera Lockwood, the actress playing Grandma Aida Gianelli, died of natural causes at the age of 82. Kussack stepped into the role. In the show, Nick Cristano, a rising New Jersey executive, faithfully enjoys traditional Sunday meals with his two sets of grandparents -- until an employment opportunity threatens to take Nick away from them. Their solution? Get Nick a family of his own to keep him from leaving.
Food is a major part of the play, as the family debates over meals. According to the producers, 3,300 cannoli and 4,000 plates of veal parmigiana and vegetables have been eaten during the run of the comedy.
Over the years the New York staging has featured Kaye Ballard, Dick Latessa, Allen Swift and many others. The play has also enjoyed numerous international and American regional stagings, including a California run starring Marion Ross.
Bishoff and DiPietro are also collaborators on the long-running Off Broadway musical, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. Their new musical, Men, based on the German film, will play American Stage Company Nov. 16-Dec. 10.
Over the River and Through the Woods is produced by Jonathan Pollard, Bernie Kukoff, Tony Converse, Tony Converse and James Hammerstein. During the run of Over the River, Hammerstein died suddenly of a heart attack. For ticket information, call (212) 239-6200.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and David Lefkowitz