BWW Reviews: THE CALAMARI SISTERS' BIG FAT ITALIAN WEDDING Takes Over Penn's Landing
Who's louder than a bunch of drunken Eagles fans after a team win? Who's more crass in the kitchen than Gordon Ramsay with a team of Hell's Kitchen rejects? Who's insane enough to have a singing, dancing Italian food show broadcast out of cable access in Bay Ridge? Who bursts out singing "Mambo Italiano" - or is that "Mangia Italiano"? across the set, defying you not to want to eat a plate of sausage and peppers cooked before your eyes? Yes, the rumors are true - someone let the Calamari Sisters come back to Philly, and this time their all-singing, all-dancing, all-tsurris cooking show comes to us live from Penn's Landing Playhouse down at the river.
It's THE CALAMARI SISTERS' BIG FAT ITALIAN WEDDING, starring Brooklyn's favorite Italian duo from the Rigatoni Lodge of the Brooklyn Federation of Italian Societies, those stalwarts of St Lawrence of the Roasted Martyrs Church and Convent, Delphine and Carmela Calamari. And this time, they're showing how to cater a wedding, because Delphine is - finally - getting married. It seems that Delphine threw over Larry, the greatest butcher in Brooklyn - this from a woman who loves that man's meat like no one else's - to marry the guy who claims her late parents had arranged for her to marry him. The guy who's awfully nosy about the ingredients in Delphine's mother's (and grandmother's, and great-grandmother's...) tomato gravy. They call it sauce? We call it gravy. It's just like that - they may be from Brooklyn, but this is Philly, thankyouverymuch. At any rate, why does he want his fiancee's gravy recipe so badly?
Meanwhile, the girls are planning a fabulous show - cocktails and appetizers, especially sausage and peppers, a pasta buffet with a solid twenty kinds of pasta, and a wedding cake of modest Italian proportions, followed by a Venetian dessert table. In a totally different ethnic cooking world, that's a Viennese dessert table, which also, translated, means the same thing but with no cannoli, but whichever culture you blame for a carb-laden dessert festival, you know that Delphine and Carmela Calamari will not do things halfway; they'll do it twice the average size.
So what if you can recite some of the punch lines - did someone say punch? We're thirsty here! - along with the girls? The sausage and peppers smells fabulous, and the audience member pulled up to taste it might just survive their roasting by Delphine and Carmela long enough to find out.
Thrill to Delphine's "MacArthur Park" disco-era song and dance routine around the wedding cake. Be astonished by her "Meat, Glorious Meat" full tap routine just before intermission. Carmela's "The Mating Game" to line up a husband for herself from the audience will chill you to your very soul, even while your sides split. And after the Venetian table presentation, the Phil Spector/Wall of Sound parody blowout, complete with a white fringed Sixties gogo dress and boots, will make you wonder if these two would just do us a favor and film more of their cable access cooking show right here in Philly every season.
Will Delphine marry her fiancée, or will her love for Larry and his big sausage prevail? Will Carmela find Mr. Right - and if she does, will she drop her entire waiting list of Mr. Right Nows or will she keep them anyway? Will the audience ever learn how to list all the pastas for the pasta table, or will they just go home to cook an insufficiently large buffet? And did someone leave that cake out in the rain? We don't think Delphine could take it, 'cause it took so long to make it, and she'll never - oh, sorry, we digress. Let her answer that herself in her one-woman wedding cake revue.
A Squid Ink Production, written by Jay Falzone, Dan Lavender, and Stephen Smith, THE CALAMARI SISTERS' BIG FAT ITALIAN WEDDING is all the cooking show you'll never need... but that you never knew you wanted. If you don't get hungry from all the effort you'll go to laughing yourself sick, nothing will give you an appetite. And go thank Geno's Steaks, because they made it possible for the Calamari Sisters to broadcast here in town again. (Buy us a steak while you're at it, with extra onions, all right?)
If you don't enjoy raucous, funny, just slightly vulgar insanity, this might not be for you. If you don't like food - who do you think you are? Go away! If you need a laugh, on the other hand, and maybe some cake decorating advice while you're at it, or to see someone - would that be Carmela? - whose love life makes you look like Mata Hari, or at least Liz Taylor, while you learn how to set up a pasta buffet, this is undoubtedly your show, and you need to give these two Brooklyn gals a big Philly welcome. Not like the one you give the Phillies on a regular basis, either.
THE CALAMARI SISTERS' BIG FAT ITALIAN WEDDING is only on stage at Penn's Landing through March 23, so grab tickets now. Otherwise, you'll be the only one of your friends who didn't go, and you'll be a social outcast for years. For tickets, contact Penn's Landing Playhouse at PLPlayhouse.com.