Joni and Gina's Wedding

Joni and Gina’s Wedding
a kate west review
created by Marianne Basford & Ann Lippert; directed by Ann Lippert & David Pavao
at El Cid, 4212 Sunset Blvd. L.A. 90029;
contact; (323) 769-KISS (5477)
tix* $30 (includes dinner, champagne & cake)
running through December 2005 and may be extended 2006!

In the spirit of the semi-pretend-reality live show “Tony and Tina’s Wedding,” “Joni and Gina’s Wedding” is a lesbian version of its Italian-style predecessor. Patrons are the wedding guests who mingle with Hollywood actors posing as members of an eclectic wedding party.

You are escorted onto the cozy patio at El Cid, a trendy Spanish restaurant in trendy Silver Lake. There you can drink to your heart’s content at the full bar while you wait for the festivities to begin. Some cast members may venture out to greet you, including the Caterer Funqueesha (Brandi Hawkins) with a few appetizers for you, and MadDog (Jane Wolfe). By the time you’ve had a few cocktails in you, you’re introduced to the madcap members of the wedding party, by Rychard, honorary male maid of honor (Alex Garner) and you’re escorted into the banquet room for the marriage ceremony.

Ministress Pat Miass (S. Rachel Lovey) performs the “almost holy matrimony” for Joni and Gina (Lowe Taylor and Jessica Hopper). Interspersed throughout are wholly inappropriate comments by the pretend family members, which of course contribute to the hilarity of the proceedings. After the atypical ceremony, you’ll be escorted out onto the patio for more drinking and then the reception begins, along with the real fun. Dinner includes chicken, rice, salad and a champagne toast. And what a lot of toasts there are. The Best Woman, Maureen (Allie Rivenbark), bitterly remarks on her lost love, Gina, trying to goad Jodi into a catfight. Both sets of parents and siblings make speeches, the stereotypes continue and the sparks fly.

Bruce Cronander, in this performance, is General Armstrong, Gina’s waspish father and plays the stodgy, horrified military man rather well. Gina’s roguish brother Joe (Chris Burton) makes some off-hand boorish remarks and Charisse Savarin, Gina’s mother Margaret, plays an alcoholic somnambulist with no idea where she is. Feuding Jewish ex-spouses, Larry (Tom F. Evans) and Ida (Rebecca Michaels) embarrass their daughter Joni by squabbling endlessly. Joni’s sister perpetuates the Jewish stereotype as Rivkah (Kim Anton), an orthodox, mousy Jewish scholar. Larry’s current girlfriend Wamsetta (Tonya Harris) outplays Alex Garner’s Man of Honor Rychard’s queeny outrage with saucy Puerto Rican fire.

We expect and applaud these stereotypes which would might not work in a normal play but fit in great with a wedding. Because the audience feels a part of the show and have had ample time to drink, we delight in being at a wild party. Making it all worthwhile are Lowe Taylor and Jessica Hopper as Joni and Gina - both very charming and interesting. Joni is the more butch of the two, contrasting Gina’s slightly more demure side. We forget they are an unusual couple by mainstream standards and we root for them wholeheartedly. By the time we are served cake, danced in a conga line and learned to line dance, we are completely won over. Word of advice: don’t go if you don’t want to party. The actors will ask you to dance and none of them are shy, giving new meaning to the words audience participatory. From beginning to end, when the girls run off to their honeymoon, you are swept into this crazy world. Also try sitting near the walls for the best view and make sure you drink – a lot. It’s the best wedding in town if you want to go with the flow. It’s time to let your hair down and catch that bouquet.

*Partial proceeds from all shows goes to the Equality Campaign, the group that helps to fight against constitutional amendments that discriminate against same sex marriage.

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