"WHEN JOEY MARRIED BOBBY": Till Death (By Laughter) Do Us Part! Theater Review

Till Death (by Laughter) Do Us Part!

       Sarah Edwards (two-time SAG Award Nominee Tina McKissick), the feisty matriarch of a rather colorful Southern family, is busy planning a wedding– a wedding which requires two boutonnieres and two male figurines topping the the cake.  Yes, Virginia, this is a gay wedding, with her hunky gay son Joey (Former Detroit Tiger Pitcher Matthew Pender) tying the knot to his boyfriend Bobby.  As it turns out, deets like selecting just the right flowers (“Pansies at a gay wedding?  Won’t that seem a bit redundant?“) is the easy part.  While she’s busy making the arrangements for her son’s big day, Sarah is constantly distracted by family drama.  Her left-leaning daughter Sally Joe (Rebecca Dealy) invites a homeless man (Richard James Porter) to stay at the Edwards’ house, just in time for the festivities.  Her caustic mother-in-law and longtime nemesis Ivy (Deborah Johnstone) is on her way over to the Edwards’ house as well.  As if that’s not enough, our Dixieland diva is simultaneously planning on playing The Virgin Mary– in a blonde wig and sequined dress, with baby Jesus in a mini tuxedo– in a Nativity-themed project for her Church.  In addition, Sarah has just been nominated for “Christian of the Year” (The prior winner was… Dick Cheney!). To stand a good chance of winning, she must endear herself to the Chair of the Selection Committee, Charity Divine (the legendary Lady Bunny), who’s also the wife of the town’s influential Baptist preacher.  Ms. Divine is having “family issues” of her own.  She recently bought a Mexican baby she saw for sale on TV, and she spontaneously breaks into episodes of “psychological childbirth”– allowing Lady Bunny to engage is some of her trademark Lady Bunny-esque antics for the audience. 

    In addition to its kooky characters and crazy situations, “When Joey Married Bobby” crams dozens of pop culture and political zingers into its running time; everyone from Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, to Tiger Woods and the cast of “Jersey Shore” get their turn (with Wendy Williams and Levi Johnston perhaps suffering the most humiliation!).  In a performance that gives “larger than life” a new meaning, Lady Bunny and her hair dominate every scene they’re in, from the moment the drag diva first appears on the stage.  The Divine Ms. B’s appearance alone, in fact, is worth the price of admission.  As Sarah Edwards, Tina McKissick manages to rival Bunny with her outrageously campy persona and equally outrageous outfits. (Wait till you see what she wears for the main event!…) As a dame who could wave both the Confederate flag and a P-FLAG banner with equal conviction, her character is as endearing as she is funny. “When Joey Married Bobby” is pretty much Lady Bunny and Tina McKissick’s show all the way, but other characters have their moments: With shoulders broad enough to hang Bunny and McKissick’s wardrobes from, Matthew Pender is both charismatic and very, shall we say, “easy on the eyes”.  And Deborah Johnstone proves that “Mother Edwards” is not as much of a monster-in-law as she seems at first, in a standout scene with Joey’s cute AIDS-afflicted friend Dan (William Yoder) that’s both funny and surprisingly provocative.  

      It doesn’t always work.  At one point, daughter Sally Joe engages in some political banter that seems kind of ill-fitting for the play’s comedic vibe, and there’s a one-liner about AIDS that’s somewhat overplayed.  But mostly, “When Joey Married Bobby” is a high-spirited, very enjoyable affair: something of a marriage between “Steel Magnolias” and John Waters’ cult flick “Pink Flamingos”.  In one scene, Sarah’s long-suffering personal assistant Viola (Jennifer Banner Sobers) reacts to yet another one of her boss’ crazy ideas with, “I don’t think this is gonna work!”  Our heroine retorts, “Of course it will.  This is the South!”  Amen to that!

“When Joey Married Bobby”
is playing at Theater 80, 80 Saint Mark’s Place btwn 1st and 2nd Aves.  Showtimes are Fridays and Saturday at 8PM and Sundays at 3PM, with a special Valentine’s Day showing at 7PM.  Go to www.Theater80.org or call (212)388-0388 for tickets.

Visit www.WhenJoeyMarriedBobby.com for more!



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