Joey and Maria's Comedy Italian Wedding: Dinner Theatre that Goes Beyond the Third Wall

A big fat Italian wedding calls for a big fat Italian feast. If you like your theater to come with a side of dinner -- and you don't mind a little breaking down of the third wall -- Joey and Maria's Comedy Italian Wedding is the show for you.

Having run for 20 years or so, Joey and Maria's Comedy Italian Wedding is perhaps the longest running show of its kind. Not just dinner theater, but interactive dinner theater, the show incorporates the audience into the show as guests at the wedding and, at times, even involves them.

The Fresh Theatre Project Company will be putting on the show from February 1 through 24 at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts. The play is only loosely scripted with most of the characters ad-libbing their lines. The Fresh Theatre Project has taken the creativity another step -- beyond the third wall and onto a Facebook wall.

"We originally started Fresh thinking that we would do small scale musicals," says artistic director Jordana Forrest. "In starting this company, we wanted to provide patrons of the theater with something more than just the typical experience. With most Americans being captivated by the reality TV craze, mixed with the fact that theatre companies are closing left and right, we knew we had to do something different. We wanted people to experience the performing arts. Instead of just sitting on the couch watching 'scripted dramas' camouflaged as reality TV. From this concept, 'reality theater' was born."

She and production director Nicole Stav -- founding members of the company along with Zay Alcantara -- are both Coral Springs natives and alumni of the drama program at J.P. Taravella High School.

Fresh Theatre Project's Facebook page mimics one a bride might build while planning her wedding. Visitors become immersed in the quirky characters of these soon-to-be-joined Italian families, the Gnocchis and the Cavatellis.

"I have a background in social media marketing. With the 'reality theatre' aspect, we thought it would be funny to do 'confessionals' in character. It has gone viral on a local level," says Forrest. (All video was done by Tony Zumbato and edited by Forrest.)

There are video interviews with friends, relatives, and even the groom's vivacious ex-girlfriend, Viola Vermicelli. (Yes, everyone in this play is named for a traditional Italian food. Mangia!) Each of them gives a reality TV style confession of what they really think about the joining of this man and this woman. They speak now, they speak later, and they never hold their peace.

As to the dinner part of this dinner theater, it will be catered by Doris's Italian Market & Bakery. Enjoy a three-course Italian dinner as the wedding drama unfolds and join in a champagne toast to the bride and groom.

Joey and Maria's Comedy Italian Wedding runs from February 1 through 24. Tickets are $45 and include the dinner and champagne toast. Fair Warning: This show is not for the shy or easily embarrassed as you may be called upon to play a part.

The Coral Springs Center for the Arts is located at 2855 Coral Springs Dr. in Coral Springs. Call 954-344-5999, or visit coralspringscenterforthearts.com.

To learn more about Fresh Theatre Company visit their Facebook page, facebook.com/FreshTheatreProject.