BWW Review: MY BIG GAY ITALIAN WEDDING Tries Hard to be the Social Event of the Season
When MY BIG GAY ITALIAN WEDDING debuted in New York in 2003, it quickly became the social event of the season. Written by Anthony Wilkinson as part of his trilogy with My Big Gay Italian Midlife Crisis and My Big Gay Italian Funeral, this frantic, farcical confection may be best viewed after several adult beverages so the laughs abound as fast as the characters run around and about the small Hudson Theatre (Main Stage) in Hollywood.
Gianfranco Terrin, a native of Naples who trained in Los Angeles at the Lee Strasberg Institute, is probably best known for his work on The Disney Channel's Movie Surfers, as well as in other Italian and American films. But his decision to present caricatures rather than believable characters takes this seemingly under-rehearsed comedy into the realm of farce.
Anthony Pinnunziato (the show's director Gianfranco Terrin), a traditional Mother's boy, loves Andrew Polinsky (David-Simon Dayan), a handsome young man of Polish descent more interested in having fun than settling down. But when Anthony proposes, Andrew agrees even though he knows Anthony's traditional Italian family may never accept him. You see, Anthony's very traditional Italian mother, Angela (Linda Nile who steals every scene in which she appears), insists that they have a Catholic wedding with Father Rosalia (Carlo Carere) presiding. But given the Vatican's position on same-sex marriages, this presents a real challenge.
Angela also insists that Andrew's mother fly in from Florida to attend the wedding, set to take place in the fanciest Italian restaurant. But Andrew's real mother still refuses to talk to her gay son, so how will he convince her to attend? And what about Andrew's father Joseph (Ric Olivera) who seems more interested in horse racing than his son's wedding problems?
And what about trashy Aunt Toniann (Claudia Jakab), "little Miss Righteous" who has been dating a married man but seems more attached to her hair spray and big hair? But the biggest challenge of all may come from the more flamboyant Gregorio (Fabrizio Alliata), Andrew's spurned ex-lover, who threatens to scuttle the proceedings by revealing a nasty secret about Andrew. Will friends Mario (Salvador Avena) and Frankie (Tomaso Diblasi), most often involved with set piece changes, save the day?
Add in Anthony's attractive sister Maria (Serena Limonta) who insists on singing at the wedding (although she really can't), and devoted lesbian friends (Ana Maria Perez and Tiera Dashae) who seem to enjoy a real love/hate relationship, all of whom will make you wonder how will they be able to make all the wedding arrangements without killing each other in the process. Of course, their shenanigans amid all the nonsense is the basis for the play's humor.
And what part will Rodney (Julian Zambrano) play to assist his friends pull off the actual ceremony? And why would their famous gay wedding planner Maurizio (Kevin Clough) decide to show up in pink shorts for the ceremony? And is that nun (Sarah John Long) really as pious as she lets on? Then again, this is an outrageous comedy, so you never really know!
So how will love conquer all? Will a large, loving Italian Catholic family come together, despite multiple obstacles, to celebrate the marriage of two men deeply in love? The real joy of this play should be the journey to get there, although technical issues on opening night disrupted the flow of the action, which could have used another week of rehearsal to tighten up the scene transitions.
The overall feeling I got from the continuous antics is that perhaps this show would be better suited to more intoxicated, late-night crowds who would, no doubt, laugh hysterically at all the farcical characters and situations.
MY BIG GAY ITALIAN WEDDING, written by Anthony Wilkinson, directed by Gianfranco Terrin, is produced by Italian Comedy Club and Fausto Petronzio by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc. Performances take place at the Hudson Theatre (Main Stage), 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90038 through March 31, 2019 on Fri. & Sat. at 8:00pm, Sun. at 3:00pm. Please note an alternate cast appears in Sunday performances. Run time is 100 minutes with one intermission. Tickets are $55, available by calling (323) 481-6890 or online at www.italiancomedyclub.com/mbgiw.
Photo credit: Ian Fisher