By Joseph Blake
Monday Magazine contributor
Over the River and Through the Woods was originally an old American Thanksgiving song drawn from an earlier 1844 poem by Lydia Marie Child.
Broadway star Joe DiPietro (writer of Tony Award-winner Memphis and off-Broadway hit I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change), took the traditional folk song as ironic inspiration for his 1998 comedy of family, faith and food.
Local writer, director and actor Jason Vikse is staging the Broadway hit at Langham Court Theatre Sept. 25-Oct. 12. Vikse is playwright in residence this year at Langham Court, and Over the River and Through the Woods is very different from the last play the 35-year old directed at the intimate Rockland neighborhood venue, the fantasy-charged comedic drama, The Clean House.
“DiPietro’s play is warm, funny and anyone of any age can enjoy it. His writing has a tone that is light and intimate with a surprisingly emotional resonance. We’ve probably all experienced family gatherings like the one portrayed by my fantastic, six-member cast. I’m so excited to work with this group of actors,” Vikse says. “They’ve put a great amount of effort and research into their work to make sure their characters reflect the play’s 1990s time period.”
The play’s 29-year-old, single male narrator shares Sunday dinner every week with his Italian-American grandparents. Family is at the heart of their lives, and the news the grandson brings to the play’s dinner conversation of a dream job far from his extended family doesn’t go over well. It interrupts the sweet play’s rollicking portrayal of a richly nostalgic family life, as does a surprise guest at the table. Talk of Italian food, Chinese food, aging drivers and great old cars bring the characters to life, enriching the family saga.
Vikse is a prolific writer who is currently finishing another play for Langham Court that will be workshopped, then performed as a public reading before this year’s playwright in residence position ends. He’s also working on Leitzig, a play about memory, heritage and the Holocaust for Bēma Productions in Congregation Emanu-El, Victoria’s downtown synagogue, to be produced in mid-2020.
In the last few years Vikse has also published a half-dozen books of genre fiction and White Out: A Comedy in Three Acts. He lived in Switzerland and Australia before returning to Victoria four years ago. The prolific writer, director and actor (“My favourite role as an actor was Petruchio in a production of The Taming of the Shrew.”), describes his busy working life simply.
“I tell stories for a living.”
Vikse and his team at Langham Court Theatre will bring a wonderful story to life Sept. 25-Oct. 12. Don’t miss it. For tickets and more information visit langhamtheatre.ca or call the box office at 250-384-2142.