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Over the River and Through the Woods

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Welcome, international delegates! I can't tell you how happy we are to have you here. We've been cleaning ourselves into a stupor from the moment we heard you were coming, and we're all ready to entertain ... as soon as we can figure out where to put the protesters.

The cruel irony is that lots of places near your hotel have shut down, so if you're looking for entertainment you'll have to travel.

For something quintessentially Pittsburgh, you can visit Little Lake Theatre, in Canonsburg. Yeah, it's a bit of a hike, but you can cover part of the distance on our subway ... the envy of the tri-county region.

Still, it's worth it. Little Lake, in its 61st season, is a celebration of Pittsburgh theater. Unlike tours or shows using out-of-town artists, Little Lake is all about showcasing local talent. As a bonus, it's one of the area's best community theaters.

And that brings us to the company's latest offering, Over the River and Through the Woods, by Joe DiPietro. This show ought to be subtitled "The Play Ted Hoover Should Hate But Doesn't," because it's got all the earmarks.

Nick, a young man living in New York, is torn: Since his parents moved out of town, he is the only remaining relative of his maternal and paternal grandparents. Every week they all get together for a big Sunday Italian dinner ... but this particular Sunday, Nick has an announcement: He's been offered a promotion and has to move to Seattle.

After the ensuing emotional drama dies down, the grandparents figure that if they can fix up the single Nick with a girlfriend, he might stay. And oh, the merry mix-ups that ensue.

This could be a sugary, emotionally manipulative script. But there's something in DiPietro's writing which always manages to pull it back from the edge. He makes some interesting points about family and generational attitudes in America. And for a play with no villain, he keeps the dramatic ball rolling.

The Little Lake production is as every bit as big-hearted as the script ... maybe even more so. Director Charita Nemec employs a light touch throughout, though she gives in to some shameless sentimentality at the end. But she's got a very strong cast at her side, including Bob Anderson, Bill Bennett, Mary Chess Randolph, Terry Hoge, Jennifer Luta and Pat Cena Samreny.

There was nothing like this in Doha.

 

Over the River and Through the Woods continues through Sat., Sept. 26. Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive South (off Route 19), Canonsburg. 724-745-6300 or www.littlelaketheatre.org

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