When you attend Tony n' Tina's Wedding, if you're expecting a celebration of the joy, hope, and happiness that comes from a couple uniting in a lifelong commitment of love, fidelity, and marital bliss…Fuhgeddaboudit!
In true New York fashion, the finest Italian stereotypes of Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx — the Nunzio and Vitale families — are inviting the world once again to take part in the not-so-solemn nuptials and oh-so-dysfunctional reception of Artificial Intelligence's Tony n' Tina's Wedding, now playing at two venues in the Times Square area.
Tony and Tina have been around for a while. They've been reenacting their wedding since the 1980s, when two Hofstra theater students, Mark Nassar and Nancy Cassarom, came up with the idea for the couple. After the show's first performance in New York's Greenwich Village in 1985, it started grabbing national attention and even traveled to Los Angeles for a "Honeymoon" run in 1989. The show played in New York for 22 years before closing in 2010. Now it's back with more bada bing! than ever.
Tony n' Tina's Wedding starts out in the Jacqueline Onassis High School, where Father Mark (Tim Monaghan) officiates at the short wedding ceremony on the school's auditorium stage. The gum-chewing bridal party enters dressed in short, red, tiger-striped, poofy prom dresses (the maid of honor is heavy with child), and the ushers bat one another around while hooting, hollering, and making googly eyes at the bridesmaids. Meanwhile, photographers flit about the restless family in the front row, trying to snap pictures. Sister Albert Maria (Courtney Brooke Lauria) scolds anyone (audience members included) whom she catches texting while she's talking. Someone's hitting on or barking at someone somewhere, creating organized chaos in the auditorium before Tony (Joe Ferraro) and Tina (Marilia Angeline) finally exchange their vows.
Then it's on to the reception at Guy's American Kitchen and Bar a few blocks away. Once there, you're led downstairs to a large, festive, dimly lit room with tables and a dance floor — it's all a little fancier than you might expect. The design team has done a great job creating the familiar atmosphere of a wedding reception and making the "theater" taking place seem like the real thing.
Here's where the show really kicks into high gear. Dancing gets underway almost immediately, and you better join in or Grandma Nunzio (Annie Rachele Lanzillotto) is gonna want to know why. But don't focus on one "scene" too long, because they're happening all around you. While the gold-medallion-wearing caterer Vinnie Black (Al Quagliata) talks about the pasta he's serving for dinner, over here Tony's father is ogling Tina's aunt's posterior ("five pounds of mozzarella," he says), while over there one of the ushers is hitting on a bridesmaid, and over there Tina is leaning over a table sniffing something. You want theater? You got it, goombah!
The venue may have changed since Tony, Tina, and la famiglia took the stage, but those who've attended before will recognize a few things. Mother of the bride Josephine Vitale (Denise Fennell) still attends the ceremony in a slinky black dress, Grandma Nunzio passes out on the dance floor (she wants attention), and Tony shoves cake into Tina's mouth, prompting her to scream at her new husband, "I hate you!" But even if some of the stock scenes remain, the innovative, improvising, hysterical actors make sure this is never the same show twice.
You don't have to be a paisan to have a helluva good time with Tony, Tina, and family. You'll have as much fun as you bring to it. If Grandma Nunzio asks you to dance, get up and shake your mozzarella to the "Mambo Italiano."