Tuesday, February 15, 2011

WLS Theater Review: "My Big Gay Italian Wedding"

Two impossibly handsome young men fall in love in New York City.  After a year they decide they are ready to commit to marriage.  What can possibly go wrong?  Fortunately for the audiences of "My Big Gay Italian Wedding," quite a lot! This is largely thanks to Anthony Wilkinson who has written a comedic, socially relevant, and wildly entertaining theater piece.

The show begins with Anthony Pinnunziato (played by Wilkinson) telling his Brooklyn Italian family of his engagement.  The Pinnunziato clan has only recently begun to accept Barack Obama as President, much less embrace their gay son going through a traditional wedding ceremony to his Polish partner.  But true to the message embedded throughout the show, love and loyalty overcome old ways of thinking. Soon the whole family, including Ilene Kristen's delicious Aunt Toniann, stands behind him, and wants to pay for the lavish event. 

But this is only the beginning of what stands to prevent marital bliss.  Try throwing in an overprotective best man, an embittered ex-lover, a magniloquent wedding planner, a hypocritical priest, an unpredictable drunken drag queen, and two very angry lesbian ex-lovers and you just begin to get a sense of what obstacles lie in the path of true love.

The success of executing this delightful chaos rides on the very ample shoulders of ONE LIFE TO LIVE's Emmy Award winning director Anthony Wilkinson. As writer and star of this piece, it is up to Wilkinson to provide a witty and entertaining show, while remaining its emotional center.  Wilkinson proves more than up to this task, as the audience vividly experiences every smile, tear, and sign of panic that registers on his expressive face.  He embodies a spirit of sweetness and joy that would make even the most conservative audience member root for the success of this union.

Ilene Kristen, as bra-stuffing, wise-cracking, drink-swirling Aunt Toniann, amuses and delights audience with her sharp one-liners and resilient support of this coupling.  New York audiences have had the blessed opportunity to see Kristen's sell-out singing performances in the past.  But in this show you will also get to see her professional and astounding dance moves as well.  This woman can move and fortunately this show uses that to its full advantage in ways that daytime audiences have never seen.

Rounding out the talented and enthusiastic ensemble is scene-stealing Marissa Rosen, as Anthony's younger sister Maria.  Rosen is an exciting burst of energy to be reckoned with whose pure joy fills the stage.  Maria's passion for singing and performing in the wedding ceremony is a central part of the plot, and her sheer exuberance will leave a smile on your face days later.

S.A.S.S. (Short Attention Soap Summary)

WHAT IS IT: My Big Gay Italian Wedding, starring ONE LIFE TO LIVE's three time Emmy Award winning director Anthony Wilkinson, and two time Emmy Award nominee Ilene Kristen (best known for her roles as Roxy on OLTL and Delia from RYAN'S HOPE).  It is playing at 308 W. 46th Street, tickets can be purchased here.  (Add Ilene's Kristen's special code  BGCASTO2 for a discount).

WHY SOAP FANS WILL LOVE IT: Who can resist a wedding in peril?  Fans of all soaps have come to embrace the will-they-or-won't-they tension that surrounds a supercouple taking vows, and this show has it in spades, and hearts, and diamonds, and more.

BOTTOM LINE: Anyone who has ever enjoyed Ilene Kristen's work as Roxy these past ten years on ONE LIFE TO LIVE, appreciated the romantic story lines of "Kish" on OLTL, or "Nuke" on ATWT, or just enjoys a nice story about true love, wedding altar drama, and really big hair, will love this show.

VERDICT: Make sure this modern love gets you to the church on time! Don't miss Kristen's limited run in this fun and fabulous show.  Buy your tickets here!

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Therapist now accepting new clients in New York City.  He is also the author of the popular book "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve," currently available at Amazon.com. For more information about scheduling an appointment, please email him at [email protected].

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