Entertainment » Theatre

My Big Gay Italian Wedding

by Steve Weinstein
Contributor
Tuesday Nov 6, 2012
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Anthony Wilkinson and Daniel Robinson
Anthony Wilkinson and Daniel Robinson  

When I reviewed the original production of "My Big Gay Italian Wedding" two years ago, I compared it to the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges and a Looney Tunes cartoon. If this revival plays even more broadly than the original, it still has plenty of laughs.

Some people might complain that the whole thing is stupid. Well, it is. What’s wrong with a totally stupid, fun night in the theater once in while? Look, if you’re looking for Ibsen, go elsewhere. "Italian Wedding" plays on the hoariest of ethnic stereotypes so cliched that it makes "Mob Wives" or "Jersey Shore" look like something directed by Martin Scorsese.

There has been a little reworking of the text to incorporate the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York State, plus a few topical references. But overall, the plot stays the same: Reserved WASP hunk marries Italian-American queen and the rest of his extended family comes along for the ride.

Playwright Anthony Wilkinson has done a great job of giving us a portrait of a family that, despite the strictures of culture and church, loves its gay son. Through all the silliness, that’s actually an insight worthy of Ibsen.

In this kind of production, some of the actors can get carried away. I got tired quickly of the exaggerated mannerisms and blaring of every line by the mother. The wedding planner, on the other hand, provided just the right mix of cartoon overreaching, pantomime and snappy non-sequiters.

Since this is nominally a play, there has to be something that goes wrong. Here, it’s a brief fling on Fire Island. Playwright Anthony Wilkinson lets his inner goomba overcome his dramaturgy; this gym bunny is definitely more of a Pavilion type than Ice Palace. I won’t even begin to try to parse out how, in this day and age in New York City, a guy is going to get upset about his beloved’s fling. I mean, we’re talking about one fling here. That’s the gay version of absolute monogamy.

Despite a few minor stumbles like that (and that one was pretty minor, wasn’t it?), Wilkinson has done a great job of giving us a portrait of a family that, despite the strictures of culture and church, loves its gay son. Through all the silliness, that’s actually an insight worthy of Ibsen.

Oh yeah, did I mention the gay Catholic priest? I know, I know: redundant.

"My Big Gay Italian Wedding" is in an open run at St. Luke’s Theater, 308 W. 46th St. For info or tickets, call 212-239-6200 or visit www.telecharge.com or http://www.biggayitalianwedding.com

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early ’80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).

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