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Grandparents shine in ‘Over the River and Through the Woods’

South Boston News
Deborah Sizemore and Peter Balys portray grandparents of a grown grandson they hope to keep close by in Halifax County Little Theatre’s winter comedy “Over the River and Through the Woods.” Audiences can expect lots of laughs and a few tears as well when the show runs from Feb. 20-March 1 in South Boston. Call The Prizery at 434-572-8339 for tickets. / February 12, 2015

Whether they go by Grandmommy and Grandaddy, Nana and Papa, or Meema and Pops, there is no question that grandparents are the greatest, the bee’s knees!

Halifax County Little Theatre’s winter comedy, “Over the River and Through the Woods,” features two sets of grandparents and their attempt to keep their precious grandson close by.

Directed by Sandy Slayton, the show opens Friday, Feb. 20, and runs for two weekends at The Prizery.

One set of these grandparents, Aida and Frank Gianelli, is portrayed by Deborah Sizemore and Peter Balys, both grandparents themselves. Both also have a long list of theatre credits on their resumés over the years, but their beginnings are quite different.

Sizemore is a Halifax County native who has worked in the financial world for several banking institutions for her career.

On the other hand, Balys is from Vilnius, Luthuania, and came to the United States as a child, eventually becoming a United States citizen. Balys spent his career as a federal government employee in Washington, DC, as a defense mapping agency satellite imagery analyst and supervisor.

Sizemore describes her character, Aida, as a woman who loves her family and thinks food solves all problems. “She is an Einstein in the kitchen and devoted to taking care of her husband. An apron is her second skin,” she said.

Sizemore is quick to point out that she does not even own an apron and certainly does not spend 24/7 in the kitchen!

Balys plays Aida’s husband Frank, an Italian immigrant who is dedicated to his family. He is highly emotional with a heart of gold. Balys says that Frank “has a strong work ethic and is dedicated to making things right for his family. Frank had to leave his family behind to come to America to make a better life for himself, so he is very demonstrative to others.”

Balys says that due to his background, he is a very reserved Type B personality, but adds, “Frank and I both hold strong internal ideals though.”

While Aida and Frank spend most of their lives doing things for their grandson, Sizemore and Balys have other interests, and one that they share is their love of theatre.

Local audiences know Sizemore from years of doing Little Theatre and Prizery shows, including “Always, Patsy Cline,” “Steel Magnolias,” and most recently “Dixie Swim Club.”

Since he retired from the federal government and moved to Clarksville, Balys has been involved in several different theatre companies, including the Clarksville Community Players, Roxboro Little Theatre, and Granville Little Theatre. Balys has clearly been in demand, as his credits include “Oklahoma!,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Cabaret” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Both agree that audiences will see similarities with the older members of their own families as they watch two sets of grandparents interacting with their grown grandson in the play. One of the funniest scenes is a game of Trivial Pursuit the five play, where the four grandparents go through elaborate questions and answers to find a name they can’t quite put their fingers on. It is truly a laugh-out-loud audience moment.

“So many people will relate to the old family tradition of going to visit grandparents on Sunday afternoons,” Sizemore, who is a grandmother to her nine year old granddaughter, Ella, said.

After the Feb. 20 opening, the show continues Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, and then the next weekend the show runs Thursday through Saturday nights and concludes on Sunday, March 1, at 3 p.m.

Tickets are on sale at The Prizery box office at 572-8339 or online at

And remember, as an Italian proverb says, “If nothing is going well, call your grandmother!”

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