When you're in your late 20s, wedding invitations show up in your mailbox more frequently than the Shopper Stopper. I've been to many weddings in the past few years, but no wedding -- past or future -- will be more memorable than that of Candy Cannoli and Sammy Sweet.
Sweet-Cannoli Nuptials by WhoopDeDoo Productions is back for its sixth year of what some folks might call immersive theater. While the audience is part of the show, I'd like to offer a more accurate description: Sweet-Cannoli Nuptials is theater on massive amounts of cocaine.
Opening night, when I arrived at Bunky's restaurant on Atwood, the location of the show...er, reception, my friend and I were greeted by the brides' aunties, who assured us loudly how happy the bride and groom would be to see us. We signed the guestbook and were sent to the basement to be seated by Lance, the bride's flamboyant brother who jingled his little wand around all night...literally.
After being patted down at the door (I'm still not sure what that was all about) and smothered with kisses from the father of the bride, we were sashayed to our table by a host of relatives. Our introductions to our tablemates were interrupted by the best man's mom. She attempted to set up me up with her son. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be -- he was much more interested in his flask than in having the grandbabies she was pining for.
Everything -- from the costumes to the accents -- in Sweet-Cannoli was turned up a notch beyond strange. There isn't much plot to speak of. Instead, the antics rely mostly on the amplified chaos of a wedding, playing up every stereotype in the book. There's a Jewish rabbi, a drunk Irishman, a gay brother and an Italian mother who is dying to show you pictures of her family. Much of the scripted humor is innuendo-based, but the funniest things are the small improvisations and audience reactions to the wackiness unfolding on all sides. References to local places like Olbrich Gardens and Stoughton are a fun idea but feel a little forced into scenes that seem to be from another world.
The characters were exceptionally well-cast -- Nathan Figueroa and Jocelyn Fitz-Gibbon make an embarrassingly cute couple. In fact, it's a shame that much of the action leaves them back at the head table, just looking moony-eyed at each other. Director Michael Bruno was perfect as Joe Cannoli, a quintessential Italian father of the bride. His young trophy wife Bambi, played by Rebecca Goldberg, had the audience wrapped around her saucy little finger.
The location -- the basement of Bunky's, formerly the Atwood Community Center -- was ideal. The tile floors, window air conditioner, and open kitchen area could not have been more reminiscent of a church basement. On opening night, it was steamy-hot and crowded, but that just seemed like part of the show.
Shows like Sweet-Cannoli are not for everyone, and I count myself as someone who will not be lining up for Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding or Late Nite Catechism anytime soon. At moments, the crazy costumes, pushy characters were a bit too much for me and I felt like I was trapped on an amusement park ride.
When Joe Cannoli thanked us all for coming, I breathed a small sigh of relief. I had survived!
Still, I was a good sport -- I clinked my glass with the best of them, danced the "Hava Nagila" and had my picture taken with the happy couple. I didn't catch the bouquet, but it was a night I will never forget. Oh, and the wedding cake was delicious!