Anthony J. Wilkinson as Anthony and Reichen Lehmkuhl as Andrew in My Big Gay Italian Wedding
BOTTOM LINE: A silly, campy, gay play but not very smart or funny.
I went into My Big Gay Italian Wedding with high hopes. Considering that it already had an off-Broadway run back in 2003, I figured that it must be an entertaining show for it to come back so soon. Instead, I saw a show that was filled with every stereotype imaginable and very few laughs. The premise is that Anthony (Anthony Wilkinson) wants to marry his boyfriend Andrew (Reichen Lehmkuhl) but has to get the approval of his traditional Catholic family and also try to please all of his friends in the process. Throw in one jealous ex-boyfriend and hilarity ensues. Supposedly.
Maybe I was just expecting too much because there were plenty of people around me who seemed to be having a great time. They laughed and clapped along with the music and even "awwwd" a few times. I just couldn't get past the contrived plot devices and broad hammy performances. Emotional Italian mother? Check. Tough guy father who has one scene where he shows what a softie he is? Check. Drag queen? Check. With mentions of Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, Tiger Woods and Facebook, the show has the lowest common denominator of humor in order to gain the most appeal. However, by doing this it's distanced itself from people who need more than topical references to laugh. It's funny in the same way that the film The Birdcage was funny. Most heterosexuals thought it was hilarious while most gay people thought it was alright but silly. My Big Gay Italian Wedding is for audiences who think 'gay people are funny.' When the song "Goin' to the Chapel" came on, it got a laugh. Because two men were going to the chapel. Get it? Gay people are funny.
Some of the performers do the best they can with the show. Brett Douglas plays a wedding planner and Adam Zelasko plays Anthony's best friend. Both actors find a way to play their roles without falling into cookie cutter versions of what could have been. Douglass is witty and smarmy and is one of the few who connects with the audience during the audience participation. Zelasko is just plain funny although his part is not the biggest. I think his role just seems bigger because he makes the most of every line and moment. Wilkinson (who also wrote the show) is always likable and energetic. His was the only character that I believed could be a real person. Lehmkuhl is obviously the draw here. He won the reality show The Amazing Race a few years ago and has parlayed that success into quasi-fame. He may be the one who is attracting ticket buyers, but he seems like he's on stage for the first time in his life here. Stiff and awkward, he fidgets and has a deer in the headlights gaze about him. He does have one scene in his underwear, so if that's what you want, go for it. Yes, he looks good. Yes, he poses way too much.
I'm really not sure who this show is for. I can see it having a Tony and Tina's Wedding kind of success in the same way that people go to see it because it's just so darn wacky. For me personally, I need more than Jersey Shore and Real Housewives references. Funny, tacky costumes and big hair does not cover up the fact that the show has very little content and very little to say.
(My Big Gay Italian Wedding plays at St. Luke’s Theater, 308 West 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues, through July 18, 2010. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8pm. Tickets are $29.50-$69.50 and are available at telecharge.com. Visit biggayitalianwedding.com for more info.)