Following the multi-year smash-hit runs of My Big Gay Italian Wedding and My Big Gay Italian Funeral (reviewed here), actor/playwright Anthony J. Wilkinson delivers Off-Broadway’s first-ever trilogy with the third installment in his hysterical semi-autobiographical series on the life and tribulations of protagonist Anthony Pinnunziato and his boisterous entourage from working-class Staten Island. If you’re a fan of Wedding and Funeral, you’ll recognize some of your favorite feisty characters reprised by the original cast, and some of the returning actors portraying new roles in the rollicking ongoing saga. If you missed the first two shows, MY BIG GAY ITALIAN MIDLIFE CRISIS, under the high-energy direction of James Valletti, stands on its own as a wildly entertaining and ultimately heartwarming story about the importance of love, support, and trust, and the growing awareness, understanding, and acceptance that come with age.
As Anthony (the equally funny and sensitive Wilkinson) approaches 40, his business venture “Body Body”—a fitness company and low-cal food line–is a success, but his love life not so much (“Good luck wi’ dat”). While attending a weight-loss convention in Atlantic City, his assorted dealings with an investor interested in expanding the franchise (former cast member Brandon Haagenson as the wealthy entrepreneur Nathaniel Hollingsworth), unexpected encounters with his cheating ex-husband Andrew Polinski (newcomer Chris Davis), and the well-intentioned meddling of the family and friends that serve as his “Body Body” staff (the terrific team of Debra Toscano as Aunt Toniann, Meagan Robar as Connie, and Liz Gerecitano as Lucia, and Chad Kessler now playing fitness guru Larry Fanazzi) launch the camp humor and heightened emotions of ‘Ant’ny’s’ titular predicament.
Among the most comical scenes are an exhausting Zumba workout to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” by Larry, Toniann, Connie, and Lucia, and their politically-incorrect attempt to expand the company’s demographic market by going global with packaged international cuisine presented by a ridiculous roster of ethnic stereotypes (Robar and Toscano are especially hilarious as the Chinese and Latina spokeswomen). All bring a passionate personality and spot-on accent to their outspoken but lovable characters, supported by appropriately tacky costumes, wigs, and make-up (Emily DeSimone) and amusing props and set (Natalie Pecora).
Will the marriage of Connie and Lucia survive secret phone calls and suspicions of infidelity? Will “Body Body” become a worldwide phenomenon? Will Anthony find true love and happiness while he’s still in his 30s? And will the Big Gay Italian trilogy be expanded to a tetralogy, a pentalogy, or more? Please!
[The Theater Center, 210 W 50th St, 3rd fl., The Anne L. Bernstein Theater] open-ended run, Thursdays at 8 pm; biggayitalianmidlifecrisis.com.