Tony & Tina’s Wedding: To Play Is the Thing

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Every time Nunzio turns around, the lady with the abundant backboobs seated at Table Two is taking another swig out of his Grey Goose. This is starting to get on Nunzio’s nerves  because #1) the father of the groom is already in a foul mood, and #2) that bottle is a prop full of water and Will Ellwood (long-time veteran of the Kalamazoo theatre scene who plays the nefarious Nunzio) is responsible for it. IMG_6293
So as Nunzio yanks the vodka unceremoniously from the very convincingly inebriated guest, Will is sizing up a different table for new possibilities. Maybe the guests at Table Ten are ready to play. No, wait, Father Mark (a hilarious, full immersion experience of Aleksandr Krapivkin) is already there hearing an impromptu confession that an unsuspecting guest didn’t know he would be put on the spot to make. Said guest’s face is divided by a crooked grin that is one part, “Ummm . . . I actually get to be in on this?” and another part, “OMG—how did I let myself get talked into this?”
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It’s all in good fun.  For “good” read “more than a little depraved.” Such is the real life of the party at Tony & Tina’s Wedding currently staged at Cityscape in Kalamazoo by WMU’s University Theatre. You can still get tickets at http://www.wmich.edu/theatre/season/wedding/ but read this review so you will be warned I mean prepared.
                                                            Note: This production closed 4/12/15
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Whether it was twerked off or jerked off (hehe, a little T&T humor there) the metaphorical “fourth wall” that traditionally divides audience from actors has been vaporized in Tony & Tina’s Wedding—a dinner theater event considered to be among the best of environmental-immersive theatre. “The show happens all around you,” explained director Mark Liermann, Associate Professor of Theatre at WMU. Mark WMU pic “This is also true then for the actors. Without the separation of the ‘stage,’ they don’t know where an audience member is going to be at any time or what he or she is going to say. The actors can’t relax and expect to know what is going to happen. That’s why this type of show is invaluable for training young actors. The best part of all of this is that it is FUN and ultimately that’s what we want the audience to experience.”
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A loose script provides numerous scene themes that play out during the marriage of Tina Vitale and Tony Nunzio, Jr., the lusty offspring of two feuding Italian families who are as excited as the Montagues and Capulets over the union of their children.
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You get the tension right away, but until Nick Angel as Joey, brother of the bride, sets the stage in the ceremony by reading scripture in the Cockney accent he’d perfected with a dialect coach for a failed Oliver Twist audition (or another of his sidesplitting renditions), you’re not entirely sure what’s going to be funny.  For “funny” read “LMAO hilarious.”
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The humor and drama play out variably at every performance of Tony & Tina’s wedding and reception, hinging on the improvisational exchange between the characters (mostly students from WMU’s theatre department) and guests who (at $45 a pop) are going to get more than their money’s worth if they decide to just play along.
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Tina (succulently played by Hilary Jiminez) and Tony (the tall, dark and talented David Lew Cooper) take center stage.
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Standing in support are bawdy bridesmaids Connie, Donna, and Marina (three heavily spiced girls—Asia Mark, Payton Reilly, and Brittanie Trevarrow, respectively) and the Best Men for the job: Barry (Eddie Coleman), Dominic (Chris Mansa), and Johnny (Landon Cally) who dance their pants off (in some cases, literally—if ya don’t believe me, just watch).
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Thank God (or more accurately, choreographer Deontez Lockett) for those high voltage dance numbers because at least you know where to look when the whole ensemble is uptown-funking it up on the dance floor.
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Otherwise, it’s a zoo I mean circus and hard to follow all the action . . . and everybody seems to be getting some action—just ask the stay-at-home dad at Table Five who’s stuffing bills into stripper Maddy’s bodice (barely covering delectable Kasady Kwiatkowska). Even the bad ex-boyfriend Michael Just (inked-in by Micah Hazel) finds a reason to remove some clothes.
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Eventually, Tony’s mother, the widowed Josephina Vitale (Janet Gover sings in this role) consoles herself by rekindling an old flame for Nunzio (Ellwood smolders menacingly) that culminates with a scene that ought to be cut from the film if there ever is a film.
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Actually, there was a film starring Mila Kunis and Joey McEntire that flopped for being “relentlessly unfunny,” which just goes to show you this is all about Improv, people. You can’t not make this up.
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The real magic of Tony & Tina’s Wedding comes down to those spontaneous moments when the Kalamazoo Medical Society from Table Eight joins the Conga line behind someone whose name is apparently “Sexual Chocolate” while a retired speech therapist from Mattawan does shots with Sister Albert Maria who may or may not be a slut . . . which is the look you yourself were going for because why-the-hell-not.
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It’s Saturday night and we’re all making believe. Adults rarely get to have this much fun without dire consequences, but a special dispensation has been granted by the Pope (via his representative sponsors from Cityscape Events, Millennium Restaurant Group, Bert’s Bakery, Memories Bridal & Evening Wear, The Canopeum, and WMU’s Theatre Department) for Tony & Tina’s Wedding.
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Tonight, not just the play but to play is the thing.

© Leeanne Seaver 3/15
http://www.seavercreative.com
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