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THEATER REVIEW Tony and Tina's Wedding
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2017-01-11

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Playwright: Artificial Intelligence. At: Chicago Theater Works, 1113 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets: $75. Runs through: April 29

Here's the premise: Anthony Angelo Nunzio and Valentina Lynne Vitale are getting married. Their families are not happy with the match. The groomsmen and bridesmaids also have mixed feelings toward the impending nuptials. The caterer is anxious to promote his business and the band would rather be playing hard rock than lovey-dovey MOR pop.

We, by the way, are the guests at this guazzabuglio-waiting-to-happen and, as such, are expected to eat, drink, sing, dance, catch bouquets and garters, nosh on wedding cake and carouse in joyful celebration.

What makes this revival of the legendary production running at Piper's Alley from 1983 to 2006 ( ! ) an improvement over its predecessor lies chiefly in its intimate environment at the Chicago Theater Works, a former art gallery reconfigured into precisely the kind of facility it replicates. To be sure, the narrative begins with an abbreviated wedding ceremony in an actual church, located two blocks' walk from the "reception hall"—a conceptual device held over from the play's warm-weather debut ( though a trolley is available for transport between sites in inclement weather ).

Once we are herded into the elbow-to-elbow confines of a banquet room ( its rehabbed-industrial interior bravely camouflaged by Oriental Trading's finest decoration ) in "Vinnie Black's Coliseum" and supplied with table champagne, a well-stocked bar and a rigatoni-bread-and-salad buffet, however, it would be downright churlish not to raise our voices and kick up our heels to "Tarantella Napoletana," "Mambo Italiano," "Beer Barrel Polka," "Hava Nagila," chicken dances, conga dances and dollar dances. Guests are not required to join the groom's buddies in stripping off their clothes for "YMCA," though.

The key to bringing off this kind of immersive effervescence is to keep everything in motion at a velocity that doesn't permit us the leisure of considering the fundamental silliness of the entire venture. The 23-member cast—which includes many veterans of earlier incarnations, notably director Paul Stroili—propel the action while maintaining crowd control to ascertain that shy or improv-challenged visitors are never overwhelmed by the surrounding mayhem.

The scenario has likewise been modified over time to include more performance, with Dominic Resigno's impish Donny Dulce dispensing '80s top tunes; Brian Noonan's Vinnie taking the mike for some old-fashioned stand-up comedy; and Alisha Fabbi as the bride's cousin Terry, soon to enter a convent, who belts forth a swan song "Last Dance" to jubilantly usher us home.


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