Roaming casually about an uncredited living room set, Second City alumnus Nia Vardalos relates the true story of her life growing up as the daughter of Greek immigrants living in a Chicago suburb amid a swarm of olive complexioned relatives, and of the events leading up to and through her wedding to Ian Wrightwood, "the whitest man in America."

Roaming casually about an uncredited living room set, Second City alumnus Nia Vardalos relates the true story of her life growing up as the daughter of Greek immigrants living in a Chicago suburb amid a swarm of olive complexioned relatives, and of the events leading up to and through her wedding to Ian Wrightwood, “the whitest man in America.” Vardalos is a captivating storyteller who is able to relate the often hilarious absurdities heaped upon her by suffocatingly overprotective parents, while tangibly communicating the exuberant love and warmth that always surrounded her.

Vardalos has a standup comic’s ability to lead the audience through an intriguing setup and then level everyone with a side-splitting punchline. But she isn’t telling jokes, she is explaining her personal history with parents who immigrated to this country when they were 18 and proceeded to launch themselves body and soul into their very personal, myopic version of the American dream.

The first half of her monologue is devoted to reliving her childhood. Vardalos is masterful at portraying any number of personalities who played a significant role in her upbringing, particularly her mother and father. It was inconceivable to them that their daughter would choose any way of life other than working in the family restaurant, the Dancing Zorbas, and living at home right up to the moment she was married to a proper Greek youth, “preferably one from her parent’s village in Greece.” Vardalos realized that she was becoming a worry to her parents when her father expressed concern she would never find a husband because she was beginning to look old. She was 20 at the time.

The second half of the evening focuses on her courtship and eventual wedding to the monumentally Anglo-Saxon Ian, attended by 406 guests (six of them his). Vardalos explains all the events with a sense of awe, as if she herself were hearing everything for the first time. One highlight is her description of the ever-patient Ian being baptized, covered with oil and holy water, wearing nothing but bikini briefs while being appraised by a church full of Greek onlookers. Of the extremely long Orthodox wedding ceremony, Vadalos explains, “It was all in Greek, except for one short phrase in English that stated, ‘and the woman shall serve the man.’ “

Vardalos concludes the evening by explaining that she had spent her whole life trying to escape her heritage, but on her honeymoon to Greece she slowly became enveloped by a great pride of what she was, a Greek woman.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Globe Theatre, West Hollywood; 99 seats; $15 top

Production

Rita Wilson, in association with Marathon Entertainment, presents a play in one act, written and performed by Nia Vardalos, directed by Madeline Cripe.

Cast

Cast: Nia Vardalos.
Opened January 15, 1998, reviewed February 19; runs through March 21. Running time: 50 minutes.

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