Thanks to a recent court ruling, same-sex couples in Cook County can now get married immediately rather than having to wait until June. And while that's an occasion for joy, sometimes enthusiastic interference from families and friends can lead to misunderstandings and awkward outcomes.
Enter 4 Days Late, a Chicago comedy-theater ensemble best known for their reality TV parody, "Jersey Shore: The Musical," which ran for nine months in 2011-2012. Now they return with "Tony n' Timmy's Wedding: The Bachelor Party"—a parody of "Tony n' Tina's Wedding," which ran for nearly 20 years at Piper's Alley—in which the well-meaning but clueless hetero brother of one of the grooms plans the bachelor party he thinks they'd enjoy, with disastrous consequences.
The show's director and head writer is ensemble member Jason Lord, who in real life is preparing for his own wedding. In December, he enlisted his 4 Days Late mates to help him put a ring on it with his girlfriend, Jackie Prater. The video of his proposal, which included an ensemble performance of an "inside joke" song the two share and a video clip from actor Aaron Paul ("Breaking Bad") wishing the couple well, went viral.
We called Lord to find out more about the show, the ensemble's reactions to the same-sex marriage ruling and his fears about his own forthcoming bachelor party.
"Tony n' Timmy's Wedding: The Bachelor Party"
Go: 9 p.m. Saturday through March 22 at Spin Nightclub, 800 W. Belmont Ave.
Tickets: $20 (includes two cocktails). 773-327-7711; tinyurl.com/tnttickets
The show's inspiration: It came from a 4 Days Late member named Dan Gold. We were watching the Pride Parade, actually, and talking about gay rights in Chicago and how now that we're past the political element of gay rights, we're talking about the pragmatic—and that means all the things that formerly just straight couples had to worry about now became things that gay couples had to worry about. [Laughs.] Like, "What are the in-laws going to say?" And, "Who's going to sit next to who at the ceremony?" So we're talking around that and the idea of somebody who comes from a small town and whose brother wants to impress him and just has no idea how to appropriately throw a gay wedding or a gay bachelor party seemed really amusing to us.
Why they incorporated a "Tony n' Tina's Wedding" parody: I'd seen it and I thought it was a fun show. And [Dan] thought, what if we combine these two ideas—did a parody of "Tony n' Tina's" that was sort of a Trojan horse for some deeper conversations about what it's like to suddenly be a gay couple thrown into a straight world of weddings?
How the marriage equality ruling affected the script: We had to rewrite the show. [Laughs.] The show originally ended with a "stand up on your chair and shake your fist in the air" sort of political statement saying, "one day." And then we're like, "Well, we're going to have to change all that!" [Laughs.] We couldn't be happier that we have to make this change, of course. But now we bring it out of the political realm and make it just purely at the interpersonal level of what's happening with these characters.
The ruling's real-life impact on the show's cast and creative team: There's of course members of 4 Days Late who are gay. I'm not; I happen to be straight. But I've had gay friends all my life. Some of my very best friends had to move to another state in order to get married. And knowing that they're going to be able to celebrate who they are and what they love in a publicly recognized fashion is extremely exciting to me. And that we're going to be able to do this show in the context of this latest ruling makes it all the more exciting for us.
Balancing the show's humor with the importance of the same-sex marriage issue: 4 Days Late has always been good about using the goofiness of our premise as a Trojan horse. When we did "Jersey Shore the Musical," we tricked a lot of people into seeing real theater by having a premise of "Jersey Shore" and having deeper themes underneath it. The emotional resonance of the ruling, of how long it's taken for gay men and women to acquire equal rights, and to be able to express who they are and who they love can be dealt with in a funny, goofy way without losing how serious and meaningful it is. What surprised me is how deep the emotions are felt by the people who are involved with it, while still being able to be funny. And that balance has been a pleasant surprise.
The benefits of staging the show in a gay nightclub: One of the things that, as a director, I have to think about is, how do you recreate the atmosphere—the sights, the smells, the sounds, whatever you're trying to portray? And having it actually there really helps. [Laughs.] As soon as the audience comes in, they're immediately immersed in the sort of craziness of the gay nightclub scene. Especially if you come in as a straight person, as I am, you could be overwhelmed by the [feeling of] "I don't know what this means, I'm not sure of the right way to act or what to look at." And that sort of confusion plays very well with the theme of the show because the person throwing the bachelor party is somebody who doesn't understand gay culture. It's also fun because literally you can experience it the way you would as a nightclub. You can order a drink. You can talk to people—those people may or may not be in the cast; you'll probably find out very soon. [Laughs.] And the show is happening all around you, which is a very fun atmosphere.
Don't fear the show's interactive components: As somebody who comes from the theater world, nothing is scarier than that moment when the cast members step off-stage and start going into the audience. [Laughs.] You're like, "Please don't talk to me; please don't talk to me." So we wanted to be very sensitive to that. There are going to be people who love to interact and want to come onstage and we want to give them opportunities. But if all you're looking to do is come and observe it, you'll have just as much fun. It's a bachelor party—any nudity? There is no nudity—that we're planning [laughs]—but there is a moment in the play where somebody makes a misguided attempt to try to assimilate to a gay lifestyle.
His own forthcoming bachelor party: The typical bachelor party things like going to a strip club or an evening of debauchery—I think the people who would make me do it would get enjoyment out of humiliating me [laughs] because I'm a very much an uptight kind of person and so I would be extraordinarily uncomfortable the entire time. My friends would do it just for that reason alone—just to watch me be uncomfortable and amuse themselves.