MERIDEN – Students in the Maloney High School theatre group are ready for the Thursday night premiere of their play, “Over the River and Through the Woods.”
The play is a comedy and drama based on the work of two-time Tony award-winning playwright Joe Dipietro, and centers on a young adult named Nick, who is preparing to move across the country for a job in Seattle, but first must deal with the guilt and resistance from his close-knit family, most notably his four grandparents. One of the focal points of the play is a regular Sunday dinner with Nick and his grandparents, who have their own unique and entertaining qualities as traditional elders.
“My character is the only one who spends much time with them,” said junior Ethan Brazel, who plays Nick in what is the first lead role of his high school career. “I get aggravated with them. They’re always in my business.”
Senior Weston Pytel, who plays Frank, one of Nick’s grandparents, acknowledges a similar plot structure to that of the former sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” where the grandfather is also named Frank, but notes that their play is not afraid to delve into more serious and emotional topics.
“We’re obnoxious like (the grandparents in “Everybody Loves Raymond”), but we get serious at some points and get deep in other places,” Pytel said.
Pytel, Brazel and director David Pelletier acknowledged a major challenge is the art of mastering the mannerisms of characters that are over a half a century older than the teenagers playing them. It’s the third time Pelletier has directed this play, but he said teaching 16- and 17-year-olds to consistently behave like 70- and 80-year-olds is a task.
“This cast, we really concentrated on getting the kids to play 70-year-olds,” Pelletier explained. “It’s a challenge in terms of movement, and to see that, and feel that.”
Despite having worked on this story multiple times before, Pelletier felt a desire to bring it back on stage after putting it on the shelf for a few years.
“I absolutely love this show,” Pelletier said. “It has family values. It’s got some really heavy emotion, and the devotion between an adult grandson and his grandparents, both maternal and paternal. Every time I see it, I always grab something new.”
The play will run nightly this Thursday through Saturday at 7 p.m. as a cabaret event. Thursday and Friday will be a “Bring Your Own Dinner” format and tickets will cost $12, while the Saturday performance will be catered, all the way from appetizers to dessert, and tickets will cost $30.
The cast is confident that the dinner won’t be the only part of the evening that guests enjoy, and that the play will bring a true dinner theater vibe to Maloney.
“People are going to love it,” Brazel said. “It’s going to make people laugh, but it will also tug at their heart strings.”