If Tennessee Williams had written his character, Big Daddy, as a Sicilian, and placed the action of that play during his funeral, you only begin to get the story line of “My Big, Gay, Italian Funeral” playing at the Saint Luke’s Theatre at 308 West 46th Street in New York City. Like an episode of “The Bob Newhart Show” gone haywire because of its move to Sicily, or a Sicilian “You Can’t Take it with You,” we are bombarded by outrageous characters acting out, acting up, and freaking out before our eyes, only to be out done by the next arriving ethnic cliché.
Written by the same author who wrote the comedy hit, “My Big, Gay, Italian Wedding,” Anthony J. Wilkinson has not exactly written a sequel, but a comedy which still manages to include a few zany characters now appearing in the current cast of his “Wedding” play. Like Kaufman and Hart, Wilkinson shines with his cast of outrageous characters in an unlikely setting. There is the Italian family in all of its voluptuous, concupiscent, and pazzo shenanigans led by the grieving widow, the favorite gay son, the black- sheep, prodigal gay son, his mysterious lover, the lesbian friend, the sister (who has many secrets only the Madonna and a rabbi knew until now), and the outlandish aunt (sister to the sainted, deceased, bowling alley- owner, capo regio), who arrived from the airport with her Italian specialty in an aluminum tray, a true chiacchierone with a faccia brutta.
No, it gets worse.
Or does it really get even better? Maybe a little bit of both. It all depends if you are the theater- goer who likes comedy broad and ridiculous, and which often hits the funny bone. With characters with names like Angela, Ondine, Dominick, Ezio, Lucia, Connie, Donna, and Toniann, what else would you expect?
Italians, Jews, lesbians, gays, women who bowl, cross- dressing, lip-synching divas, hot funeral directors, a hurricane, and disco flashbacks are all on display, and more plot twists than a Restoration comedy are packed into the play under the astute direction of Sonia Blangiardo.
The large cast included Donna Castellano (Angela Pinnunziato), Beth Dzuricky (Ondine Ozzupacci), Mustafa Gatollari (Dominick Vitale), Liz Gerecitano (Lucia Fuccio), Brandon Goins (as the luscious Ezio), the real-life gay impresario, Hugh Hysell (Maurizio LeGrande), Chad Kessler (as a ciuccio, rabbi, and drag queen), Brian Patrick Murphy (Peter Pinnunziato, whose appearance caused ladies of several genders to audibly swoon), Marissa Perry (Maria Pinnunziato), Erik Ransom (in the dual role as drag diva Diamondelle Dupree, and a hilarious psychic, Vidal Dubois), Megan Robar ( in three demanding roles), Debra Toscano (Toniann Naso), and playwright Anthony Wilkinson (Anthony Pinnunziato). And for Anthony J. Wilkinson, the playwright and actor, we can only say, “Hey ! An-Ton-eeeee !!!! Salute a cent’ anni.”
Both “My Big, Gay, Italian Funeral” and “My Big, Gay, Italian Wedding” play in repertory at the St. Luke’s Theatre. Call 212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250 or visit www.Telecharge.com for tickets.