By Joe Hadsall
Globe Features Editor
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Ann Lile sees shades of her family in "Over the River and Through the Woods," and so do many of the cast members.
"My parents weren't Italian immigrants," said Lile, director of the production at Joplin Little Theatre. "But the way they interacted with each other is just like the play. They were constantly together."
The play will be staged Wednesday through Sunday, Dec. 9, at the theater. Though it is not a holiday play, it is infused with a feeling reminiscent of the holidays, Lile said.
"It's set in the summertime," Lile said. "But it has a family feeling like there is around the holidays. It strikes a chord. It's poignant, sweet and sad."
The story of Nick, a single, New Jersey man whose parents have moved to Florida, the play focuses on his Sunday dinners with his grandparents. When his dream job in Seattle opens up, the news doesn't sit well with his Italian immigrant elders, who do everything they can to keep him home.
The play stars Lile's husband, Jim Lile, and Carolyn McGowan as the grandparents and Tony Flint as Nick. Other actors include Shanti Navarre, Neal Ruggeberg and Ashley Trotnic.
A common theme runs throughout the play: the Italian words "tengo famiglia." One of the characters explains what the phrase means. "If you translate it literally, it means 'support the family,'" Lile said. "But it's more than that. It's being there in every kind of circumstance, being a person who can support your family."
Lile first saw the play when a friend living in Texas directed it. She liked it and brought it to the producers at the theater, then was given the chance to direct it.
The play is structured with monologues delivered straight to the audience, Lile said. Where the action of the play happens years before, Nick talks about his deeper understanding of his grandparents, and his former feelings of annoyance.
Want to go?
"Over the River and Through the Woods" will be presented at 7:30 Wednesday through Saturday, Dec. 8 and at 2:30 on Sunday, Dec. 9. Tickets: $13, $11 for seniors and students, $5 for children. Details: 417-623-3638.