Theater of the Inevitable

Beach Blanket Babylon, Shear Madness, Tony n' Tina's Wedding

In this show, the audience serves as guests at the wedding of Anthony Nunzio Jr. (John Renzulli) and Valentina Lynn Vitale (Lenoir Kieve).The production begins in a church, where intrusive photographer Sal (Ray Galindo) is never in the right spot, prompting Tina's mom Josie (Diane Conway) and fey bachelor brother Joey (Arthur Calendrelli) to issue constant instructions. Proud papa Tony Sr. (Chris Gomez) hands out cards for his strip club, where his much-younger girlfriend Madeline Monroe (Suraya Keating) plies her art. Groomsman Dominic (Steven Panelli) pushes CDs and VCRs he can get you for "almost nothin'" as he ushers you to your seat. (Tony's best man Barry [Glenn Micheletti] pushes something else entirely, bringing selected people into a back room at the reception.) Pregnant maid of honor Connie (Denita Rosmarin) knows the fuchsia, miniskirted bridesmaid dress she wears looks like shit, but she's too pissed off to be embarrassed. Hapless Father Mark (Rex Anderson) presides, accompanying himself on guitar when singing "The Wedding Song." And Tony and Tina read each other heartfelt, god-awful poems they've written themselves.

The whole gang then moves to the reception hall. The Nunzios and the Vitales have two great qualities: They don't feel any compunction to behave differently just because it's a special occasion, and they're not related to you. They start off loud and crude, and get more so as the liquor flows. They're also very friendly, circulating among the guests and gossiping freely. All three groomsmen hit on my guest. ("Not a bad night for me," she quipped.) Madeline talked to us about her stripping career ("You really have to use your creativity"), her love for Tony Sr. ("We're soulmates"), and tried to get my friend to audition for the strip club. Tina's ex-boyfriend (Joey Rich) poured his heart out to us, and convinced us to slip a note to Tina, which of course Tony saw. All of this is ancillary to the public rituals -- toasts ("It's a friggin' honor to be your best man, Tony"), "Y.M.C.A." and the Chicken Dance (performed by a cover band whose lead singers have the requisite mullet hairdos), a buffet with lots of pasta, and the ever-classy money dance. There are also fights and illicit, drunken kisses.

The show is too long -- but damn, it's fun. The actors have done their homework (especially Keating, Rosmarin, Panelli, and Calendrelli) and remain in character no matter what curves the audience throws them. "Is this really the wedding you wanted?" Tony yells when the chaos gets too much for him. "Yes," Tina replies tearfully. It's the wedding we all want -- as long as it's not our own.

Val Diamond in Beach Blanket Babylon: An institution herself.
David Allen
Val Diamond in Beach Blanket Babylon: An institution herself.

Details

Beach Blanket Babylon
By Steve Silver. Produced by Jo Schuman Silver. Directed by Kenny Mazlow. Starring Linda Bulgo, Tracy Chiappone, Val Diamond, Renée Lubin, Doug Magpiong, Kenny Mazlow, Kirk Mills, Patrick Reese, Andrew Schmitt, Phillip Williams, and Erica Wyman. At Club Fugazi, 678 Green (near Columbus), on an open-ended run. Admission is $25-60; call 421-4222.

Shear Madness
By Paul Pörtner. Produced and adapted by Marilyn Abrams and Bruce Jordan. Starring Andrew Hurteau, John McGivern, Amelia Rosenberg, Marie Shell, Christopher Tarjan, and Liam Vincent. At the Mason Street Theater, 340 Mason (below Geary), on an open-ended run. Admission is $34; call 982-5463.

Tony n' Tina's Wedding
By Artificial Intelligence. Produced by Howard Perloff for Howard Porter Productions. Directed by Brian Rardin. Starring John Kovacevich, Lenoir Kieve, and a cast of thousands. At the Cable Car Theater, 430 Mason (above Geary), on an open-ended run. Admission is $65-75 including meal; call (800) 660-8462

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A final note about all three shows -- it's their natures to be subject to cast changes and the frequent use of understudies. Not one of the performances I saw featured the cast as published in the program; thus the actors I refer to may not be the publicized ones or the ones you see. Whatever their varying qualities, these shows are designed for long runs and to survive individual performers' departures. Enjoy them. I was surprised how much I did.

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