BWW Reviews: TONY N' TINA'S WEDDING Celebrates its Silver Anniversary
The theatre troupe known as Artificial Intelligence may not have invented interactive environmental theatre when they began inviting audiences to Tony n' Tina's Wedding in the mid-1980s, but they certainly popularized the idea.
Created by its original company of 13 actors, the mostly scripted but substantially improvised madcap comedy became a fixture in Greenwich Village, where for ten years those passing by St. John's Church on Christopher Street just before showtime could regularly catch the wild scene of actors playing the bridal party and various wedding guests making their way to the ceremony. That original commercial production then moved uptown to Times Square for another ten years.
This return engagement, being touted as the show's 25th Anniversary, takes full advantage of the glitz and touristy tackiness of 21st Century Times Square and offers a terrific night out.
The blessed union of Valentina Lynne Vitale and Anthony Angelo Nunzio begins at Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School (the former High School of the Performing Arts), where guests are advised to arrive 15 minutes early to start mingling with family and friends. Under Tony Lauria's direction, the actors lovingly embrace working class Italian-American stereotypes, which means lots of thick outer-boroughs accents, lots of broad displays of family affection and, once the alcohol starts taking affect, lots of tension bubbling up into screaming matches, public humiliations and fist fights.
The hip and friendly Father Mark (Tim Monaghan) presides over the ceremony held in the school's auditorium, with an inspirational sing-a-long led by the bride's soul-singing cousin, Sister Albert Maria (Courtney Brooke Lauria, belting like Joplin). Tina (Marilia Angeline) seems like a sweet girl at first, but it won't be long before she's lap dancing on her new hubby and lip-syncing to Britney Spears with her bridesmaids after downing too many shots. Tony (Joe Ferraro) is a nice guy with a long fuse that gets burned down before the night is done.
Tina's widowed mom (morbidly hilarious Denise Fennell) is overly emotional right from the start, but Tony's handsome dad (Rick Pasqualone) is having a swell time alongside his young, sexy girlfriend (Debbie Pingatore).
There's a bit of tension when Tina's hip-hop styled ex-boyfriend (Brad Martocello) crashes the ceremony, but soon the company is happily leading audience members through Times Square and Shubert Alley to the reception at nearby Guy's American Kitchen & Bar. Site specific theatre goes extreme as everyone starts mingling with The Naked Cowboy, various Elmos and Broadway playgoers on the way.
Once at Guy's, guests are seated at tables and the ticket price includes a modest meal of ziti, salad and a small piece of wedding cake (cash bar). There are plenty of opportunities to use the dance floor and the play list includes The Electric Slide and The Macarena. Your host, caterer Vinnie Black (Al Quagliata) entertains with a cheesy stand-up act, as does supper club vocalist Donny Dolce (Micah Spayer).
Although there are featured scenes, this is where the 27-member cast really starts mingling and improvising with audience members, so everyone's experience will vary depending on what happens in their part of the room. I appreciated the special attention given to me by the slick best man (Sam Masotto) who invited me to join the holy sister and the groom's father's gf in the men's room for certain refreshments not offered on the menu. (Ask for Barry and you'll find out what I mean.)