Neill Robertson in My Big Gay Italian Funeral.
My Big Gay Italian Funeral
By Anthony Wilkinson
Directed by Michael J. Drury
Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley
Entire contents are copyright © 2014, Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.
A couple of years ago, Pandora Productions went a bit against type and produced a hilarious, almost family-friendly show called My Big Gay Italian Wedding. It was a well-written farce filled with great performances and a sweet story flowing through the histrionics and complications.
Now, the Pinnunziatos have returned to the material for a sequel. And while it isn’t quite as funny or well-written as its predecessor, My Big Gay Italian Funeral should please those who enjoyed the original.
Our story picks up ten years after the wedding, and the patriarch of this stereotypical New York Italian clan has passed on. Anthony (Zachary Burrell), one half of the duo whose nuptials were presented in the previous play, is dealing with an absent husband on top of the death of his father. Things are made even worse for him by the arrival of his estranged brother Peter (Zachary Adam Hebert), also gay and with his unwelcome boyfriend Dominick (Richie Goff) in tow. Predictable shenanigans ensue.
Several cast members from Wedding reprise their roles here. Barbara O’Daniel-Munger gets some great moments as Anthony and Peter’s mother Angela (a bit of business where she tries to throw herself into the casket is one of the show’s biggest laughs). Susan Crocker reprises a role as well, but it’s in the two additional, new roles she also plays that she makes the biggest impact; when she appeared in old-age makeup complete with saggy old lady boobs as Aunt Donna, there was a good ten minutes of dialogue I couldn’t hear over the audience laughter. And Kristy Calman is simply hysterical returning to the role of loud-mouthed, big-haired, and tightly-outfitted Aunt Toniann.
But once again it’s the performance of Neill Robertson as wedding-planner-turned-funeral-planner Maurizio that steals the show. Quite possibly the most flamboyant character I’ve ever seen in a Pandora production, and that is saying something.
There is some nice work by the new performers as well. Goff makes an impression as Dominick, and Jamie Shannon is fun as Anthony’s lesbian best friend Lucia. Tamara Dearing is literally a scream as hysterical mourner Ondine. Burrell and Hebert drum up sympathy as the two feuding brothers, and Rusty Henle impresses just by playing the deceased, remaining motionless in a coffin for the entirety of the play!
The script this time out has plenty of comedy and insanity, but it doesn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor, even though it’s written by the same playwright. And I have to say a mid-play reveal seems to betray the whole point of the first play, and it really soured me on the rest of the story. There are also plot holes that could swallow a semi; but those are probably minor quibbles and you don’t even need to have seen the first one to follow this sequel. Director Michael J. Drury keeps the action moving at a breakneck pace so you don’t have a whole lot of time to think about it anyway.
Despite some minor flaws, My Big Gay Italian Funeral is definitely a crowd-pleaser. Check it out, but wear black. It’s a funeral, after all.
Starring Patrick Brophy, Zachary Burrell, Kristy Calman, Susan Crocker, Tamara Dearing, Anna Francis, Richie Goff, Zachary Adam Hebert, Rusty Henle, Jordan Lamb, Barbara O’Daniel-Munger, Neil Robertson, Jamie Shannon, and Shane Whitehead.
My Big Gay Italian Funeral
September 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 2014 @ 7:30 p.m.
September 14 & 21 @ 5:30 p.m. & September 20 @ 2:00 PM
At The Henry Clay Theatre
604 South Third Street
Louisville, KY 40202
[box_light]Craig Nolan Highley has been active in local theatre as an actor, director and producer for more than 12 years. He has worked with Bunbury Theater, Clarksville Little Theatre, Finnigan Productions, Louisville Repertory Company, Savage Rose Classical Theatre Co., and WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre among others. He has been a member of the Wayward Actors Company since 2006, and currently serves as their Board President. Craig’s reviews have also appeared in TheatreLouisville and Louisville Mojo. [/box_light]