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Monday, June 18, 2012

Pandora’s Wedding Is a “Hilariously Funny, Often Touching” Production - “A Perfect Night Out During PRIDE Month”


My Big Gay Italian Wedding

By Anthony J. Wilkinson
Directed by Lucas Adams

Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley

Entire contents are copyright © 2012, Craig Nolan Highley.  All rights reserved.

Pandora Productions has another jewel in their tiara with their latest production, the hilariously funny, often touching and surprisingly (dare I say it?) family-friendly My Big Gay Italian Wedding.

The show originally opened off-Broadway in 2003 and has been in production all over the world practically ever since. Pandora is using the revised script from 2009, keeping the story contemporary with many current references to Obama, Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives and others. It’s great fun from beginning to end, and a nice change of pace for Louisville’s only LGBTQ theater company.

The story involves a stereotypical Catholic, Italian-American New York family and the chaos that arises when their son Anthony announces he has gotten engaged to his boyfriend, Andrew. Anthony won’t get married, though, without his mother’s blessing, and she won’t give it without two conditions: her favorite priest must perform the ceremony, and Andrew’s estranged mother must be involved. When both conditions prove impossible to meet, the couple must resort to a convoluted mess of lies, schemes and cross-dressing. The only thing missing is slamming doors!

Director Lucas Adams keeps things moving at a feverish pace, and his cast is, for the most part, up to the challenge. Standouts include real-life married couple Rick and Barb O’Daniel-Munger as Anthony’s overbearing parents. Kristy Calman is a scream as husband-stealing Aunt Toniann; and Leah Roberts and Susan Crocker are hysterical as a broken-up lesbian couple who are so nasty to each other you can tell they are still in love.  Ben Gierhart, Patrick Vaughn and Corey Long are each larger-than-life as Anthony and Andrew’s friends; and Ted Lesley and Kate Holland have some great comedic moments as Father Rosalia and Anthony’s sister, respectively. Playing multiple roles, Laura Ellis gets to really shine in some truly memorable moments; and as the central couple, Amos Dreisbach and Phillip Rivera are so adorable and sweet you just want the world for them.

But the icing on the cake for this show is Neil Robertson’s performance as flamboyant (to say the absolute least!) wedding planner Maurizio. From the over-the-top skin-tight leather-and-fur costumes (by Donna Lawrence-Downs) to his flawless German accent and screeching hysterics, he steals every scene he’s in. He is an amazing performer and the Louisville theater community is really lucky to have him, and this may be one of his greatest creations. It has to be seen to be believed!

On the down side, some of the New York dialects did sound a bit forced, and I did notice some missed opportunities in the script itself. The man-in-drag subplot really has no big payoff or even very many laughs (although Patrick Vaughn is actually quite lovely in drag – who knew?). And the character of Gregorio, the ex-boyfriend of one of the characters, is so nasty and off-putting it feels out of place in such an otherwise farcical story; but actor Michael Mayes does make an impression in the role.

Those are very minor quibbles though in a show that kept me thoroughly entertained. Surprisingly for a Pandora production, this is a show I wouldn’t be afraid to bring kids to, as there really is very little that would be inappropriate for younger viewers. And other than an open shirt that reveals Mr. Mayes’ impressive six-pack, none of Pandora’s trademark nudity is on display here either.

A truly wonderful production of a very funny play, this makes for a perfect night out during Pride Month!

My Big Gay Italian Wedding

Starring Kristy Calman, Susan Crocker, Amos Dreisbach, Laura Ellis, Ben Gierhart, Kate Holland, Ted Lesley, Corey Long, Michael Mayes, Barb O’Daniel-Munger, Rick O’Daniel-Munger, Phillip Rivera, Leah Roberts, Neil Robertson and Patrick Vaughn.

June 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, & 24 at 7:30 p.m. with one matinee Saturday, June 23, at 2:30 p.m. Advance tickets are now on sale for $16, $18 day of show. 

Pandora Productions
Bingham Theatre at Actors Theatre
315 West Main Street
Louisville, KY
502.216.5502

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