Lost in translation
|By Tom Helma|
Holt-Dimondales stab at Italian-American farce is about as authentic as Chef Boyardee
Its easy to remember the sing-song version of the "Over the River and Through the Woods" poem: The first line ends with “to grandmother’s house we go.”
In Joe Di Pietro’s "Over the River and Through the Woods" — now being performed by the still new kids-on-the-block, Holt Dimondale Community Players — were going to an Italian-American grandmother’s household in Brooklyn.
The play consists of two sets of first-generation Italian-Americans who are distressed and dismayed that their golden grandchild, Nicholas, is poised to take a job in Seattle. Manipulations follow.
Nicholas is played by Randy Flick, and the grandparents — four of them — by an array of actors who have likely never seen Brooklyn and who do not seem Italian in the least.
In the role of grandpa Frank Ginelli, real-life Italian Tony Zappa offers a horribly hambone stereotype of an Italian- American.
Meanwhile, Nan Slocum, in the role of grandmother Aida Ginelli, has dyed her hair gray, yet flits around the stage like an aerobics instructor, more representative of Nebraska than Brooklyn or Italy. June Cleaver, anyone?
Harlow Claggert portrays old age well, but is not even vaguely Italian as grandfather Nunzio Cristano, while Marie Papciak, as his wife, Emma, once in a while looks borderline Brooklyn.
Are any of these characters believably presented on stage? No.
Caitlin Cane is thrown into the minor role of Caitlin O’ Hare, with red hair but no characteristics of the Irish or of Brooklyn whatsoever.
Accents and gestures, mannerisms and figures of speech, certain specific tonalities — these are the everyday colorful characteristics of most East Coast ethnicities.
Take them out of the play and it loses its soul. Holt-Community Players might have considered going with a dialogue coach.
The brightest spot on an otherwise dreary stage was the bright cherry-red Kool-Aid used to simulate a robust Italian wine.
Over the River and Through the Woods