AISLE SAY Philadelphia


By Artificial Intelligence
Conceived by Nancy Cassaro
Directed by Seamus Mee
The Venice Plaza, 18th & Snyder Streets, Philadelphia, PA
For Tickets call: (215) 297-8540

Reviewed by Claudia Perry

At the Venice Plaza located in the heart of South Philadelphia is "Tony n' Tina's Wedding". Produced by Howard Perloff this environmental theatre piece has been running for seven years. The Venice Plaza is an old fashioned catering hall complete with a worn wooden dance floor, small wooden chairs and a huge, dusty, antique, crystal chandelier hanging from the center of the very high ceiling. Large round tables are strategically positioned around the dance floor and a sizeable bandstand. (My guess is that this building was originally a ballroom.) As you enter there is a small cash bar to your right. As you proceed into the large room you are immediately greeted by Vinnie Roma, the Cadillac of Caterers who helps to seat you and your party. The evening has begun -- for you are at a wedding from soup to nuts (though they serve neither soup nor nuts.) But this is not just any wedding, no, it is the wedding of Valentina Lynne Vitale and Anthony Nunzio, jr., which can best be described as an Italian white trash wedding or "my mother's worst nightmare". Yes, for every stereotypical kind of low class, cheap and tasteless, Mafia linked, gavonne type of Italian American character is here. No vulgarity is overlooked, from the stunade groom to the puttana girlfriend, they're all lit up and ready to torture each other.

It is, by nowadays standards, a staggeringly large cast of 29 actors and three musicians (especially for a show that is not a musical but rather a play with music). There is the Bridal Party, the Vitales and the Nunzios, the caterer and his family, Father Mark, a photographer, a videographer, and a female and male singer with a three-piece band. Since the characters are too numerous and sometimes too inconsequential to mention -- here are the highlights.

Kudos to Chuck Astoria who plays Vinnie Roma, the caterer. Looking every bit the role, Mr. Astoria never overplays his character and when called upon to deliver a five-minute stand-up comedy routine, he does so with great style and timing. Mitch Eiven as Joey Vitale, Tina's gay brother, stands out as adorably charming and funny. He makes Joey a real person with just the right "queeny" touches. Tisha Tinsman in a fabulously overdone black wig and rhinestone studded black gown is very funny and thoroughly convincing as Tina's newly widowed, but still sexy mother, Josephina Vitale, who shows her love for the couple by singing a corny arrangement of "Santa Lucia". Don Danson as Josephina's nemesis, Tony's father, Anthony Nunzio, sr., owner of the go-go bar, Animal Kingdom, comes off as the real thing with his gold chains, leopard shoes and very young girlfriend, Madeline. Animal Kingdom is where Tony's very shapely amorata exposes her charms nightly. Lindsay Kowal is very pretty and sexy as Madeline, but throughout the evening pulls her dress over her panties one too many times to even be remotely believable. (Not that any men in the audience minded.) I've met go-go dancers and believe me they don't give it away like that for free. Art Amici was appropriately obnoxious as the egomaniacal Donny Dolce, lead singer with his band, "Fusion". Mr. Amici's voice was great as he tore into renditions of classic pop and rock wedding favorites. Nicole Patullo as a pretty female singer was also very good with a smooth, pleasing voice but somebody should have turned up her microphone. Maren Domenica played a goofy but cute Sister Albert Maria (the bride's cousin) who comes out of her timid shell. Father Mark was nicely portrayed by a low-key Roy Croce, sr.. Mike Vecchione, as Tony the groom was a believable, but diffident meathead and Karen O'Hanlon as Tina was a rather lugubrious, rough and tumble bride -- the kind of girl that would fair well at a hockey game. The band, consisting of Chris Moos on Keyboards, Fran Smith on Bass and Chris Collins on Drums was excellent -- but, as is usually the case with a tacky wedding -- too loud. This was especially a problem since the actors were coming around to the tables chatting with the guests to incorporate them into the action. When the music is so loud that a person has to scream to converse -- it's like every unpleasant wedding you've ever been to -- and I don't think that was the original writers' intention.

Though there is decidedly no plot to this show, audiences should be warned that it is not for the faint of heart. I felt particularly badly for the nun seated at our table (she was a real nun) who was not prepared for the coarseness or escalating vulgarity displayed by the characters as the evening wore on and their inebriated states worsened. Yes, everyone gets drunk by the end of the wedding -- from Father Mark who does an impromptu headstand in a chair, to Sister Albert Maria who ends up wearing make-up and sporting Madeline's faux fur coat, to the stupefied bride and groom. This poor innocent servant of the church all but died in her chair as boobs were grabbed right in front of her, Madeline stripped down to a G-string and started to fornicate on the bandstand with someone other than her boyfriend and the bride shared a blunt with the band. In short, every kind of nasty, naughty behavior you can think of goes on at this affair.

Hors d'oeuvres are served with the cash bar a half an hour before the wedding ceremony begins. While the action proceeds Bruschetta is passed around at the tables. At the halfway mark, guests help themselves to a buffet meal consisting of Chicken Cacciatore, Pencil Points in a white sauce, Sausage in red ragu, Caesar salad, Sauteed mixed vegetables and Italian bread. A champagne toast and chocolate wedding cake are served at the table with self-service coffee at the bar. Unfortunately, the food is not as good as you would get at a real Italian wedding and can only be described as highly mediocre. Though crass, the characters are by and large funny and if you are not easily offended, like to dance to a great live band and become part of the action you might enjoy being a guest at this wild bash.

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