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Miners Alley production keeps it all in the family

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By Sara Miller

Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden is a family affair.

Husband-and-wife team Rick Bernstein and Paige Larson act, direct, teach and are the backbone of this small yet impressive theater company. The actors, too, are no different — a small family that reunites show after show to produce hilarious and heartfelt theater.

It’s no surprise, given all of this familial sentiment, that Miners Alley’s newest show deals with the trials and tribulations of quirky, close-knit family.

“Over the River and Through the Woods,” written by Joe DiPietro, who is best known for his musical “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” tells the story of Nick Cristano and his four grandparents. Nick (played by Chris Bleau) is a young marketing executive whose only close relatives, geographically speaking, are his four grandparents. Nick has dinner with all of them every Sunday at the Hoboken, N.J., home of his maternal grandparents, Frank (Bob Moore) and Aida (Wendy Moore).

The other grandparents are Nunzio (Roger Simon) and Emma (Sue Leiser), and all are Italian immigrants who came to America to provide for their children and grandchildren the opportunities they never had. One Sunday, their most important dream and their worst nightmare come true, when Nick announces he's been offered a promotion that would take him to Seattle. Nick’s grandparents are devastated, as Nick is the last of their children and grandchildren to remain in the New Jersey area.

To keep Nick from moving, Emma invites Caitlin (Emily Norman), the relative of a canasta partner, over to dinner one week, hoping she and Nick will fall in love. The encounter is a disaster (none of the grandparents can comprehend the concept of "vegetarianism"), and the plan backfires. Now, more than ever, Nick is convinced he needs to move far away from this insane, overly loving group of senior citizens.

The senior citizens are played by a group of seasoned Miners Alley actors.

“Last year we did a show called ‘Beau Jest.’ The cast became such a family and jelled so seamlessly, we knew we needed to reunite them in another show,” says Rick Bernstein, the show’s director. “That’s why we chose ‘Over the River.’ ”

Four of Beau Jest’s five cast members signed on for “Over the River,” and the close-knit “family” was transformed into a loud, Italian clan. The newcomers to this on-stage family were Bob and Wendy Moore, a real-life couple who have acted at Miners Alley for years.

“All of our actors are so experienced in the theater and have led such rich lives,” says Bernstein. “They have lived many wins and losses and experienced much joy and pain. ‘Over the River’ is an almost autobiographical story for them to tell. It doesn’t matter that the show is placed in an Italian family in New Jersey. It could really take place anywhere — it’s a touching story about being human beings and living our lives with happiness and heartbreak.”

“Over the River and Through the Woods”

Presented by Miners Alley Playhouse

July 12-19: Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 6 p.m.; Sunday, July 19, performance is at 2 p.m. ONLY.

Tickets: $20. To reserve tickets, call 303-935-3044 or visit www.minersalley.com.

Miners Alley is at 1224 Washington Ave. in Golden (above the Foss Building)