By Katherine Karlson

Although not specifically set at Thanksgiving, the upcoming play at Cider Mill Stage shines the spotlight on that holiday’s Big Three: food, faith and family. BLAST (Bold Local Artists of the Southern Tier) will be serving up Over the River and Through the Woods as a celebration of families, both organic and chosen.

Over the River was written by Joe DiPietro, who also penned the popular I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. Director Kate Murray thinks it might be even better.

“It’s a heartwarming family drama. The audience will understand the relationships they see on stage,” she said.

The cast of characters comprises four grandparents; their single grandson, Nicholas Cristiano (Isaac Weber), and his love interest, Caitlin O’Hare (Stefanie Willette). When a transcontinental job opportunity threatens to derail Nicky’s 29-year weekly visit streak to the grandparents, they cook up a plot to keep him within commuting distance of Hoboken, N.J.

Danny Ceballos plays Pops Nunzio and says his personal philosophy boils down to “Tengo famiglia” (“I have a family”).

“Nothing is more important to him than family, but he realizes that there are forces that split families apart — that’s the way the world works,” Ceballos said. “There are plot twists that show what family is and isn’t.”

As the outsider looking in, Caitlin wants so much of what Nicky is rejecting. “I’m looking for love, too, but I don’t want to take him away from what he wants,” Willette said. “I try to remind him to follow his dreams but not be a jerk about it.”

There are layers of culture and community woven through the plot as well as the push-pull of families caught between two poles.

“What I have known and seen work, and valued in 50 years of marriage, is what I want for Nicky,” Ceballos said. “We (the grandparents) want you to have this but know there are more ways to define family as we move into the 21st century.”

The audience will be able to enjoy the experience of being a fly on the wall of the home, because the actors use the entire stage to move through the action. Murray said the actors will occasionally break “the fourth wall” and address the audience directly.

“The actors will connect with the audience as they deliver this message about family — when they’re not together, what’s permanent and what’s temporary,” she added. “It’s a lesson for all of us to appreciate life and family, whether biological or chosen.”

IF YOU GO: Over the River and Through the Woods will run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays Nov. 18-27 at Cider Mill Stage, 2 Nanticoke Ave., Endicott. All performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets at $25 can be purchased online at or by calling the box office at 607-321-9630.