This review of A Little Christmas With The Calamari Sisters at Studio Theatre Long Island was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
A Little Christmas With The Calamari Sisters
Created by Jay Falzone, Dan Lavender & Stephen Smith
With Jay Falzone (Delphine) & Stephen Smith (Carmela)
Studio Theatre Long Island
141 South Wellwood Avenue
Lindenhurst, New York
The Calamari Sisters are fictitious characters (Delphine & Carmela Calamari from Bay Ridge) with their own website, YouTube channel, and Facebook Page. They have been touring with different shows since May 2011. Each production contains unique dialogue, different dance numbers, a variety of songs, a number of bad jokes, and the creation of dishes and drinks related to the carefully selected theme of each particular show. For example, the last show The Calamari Sisters put on at JCC Center Stage in Rochester, New York from October 8 - November 8, 2015 was entitled Oy Vey, It's The Calamari Sisters. That show told the story of what happens when the Italian, Roman Catholic sisters agree to cater an event at a Jewish Funeral home and their struggle to keep it Kosher. There seems to have been significant confusion with respect to what show was to play at Studio Theatre Long Island. David Dubin, the Artistic Director of Studio Theatre Long Island, introduced and advertised the show as Cooking With The Calamari Sisters. The program referred to the show as A Musical Cooking Lesson With The Calamari Sisters. The Calamari Sisters' website says the show playing is called Another Christmas With The Calamari Sisters, but The Calamari Sisters themselves and their production team assured me the show playing at Studio Theatre Long Island is entitled A Little Christmas With The Calamari Sisters, as opposed to their Big Christmas show, which has a set too large to fit on this stage. Other shows they offer are The Calamari Sisters' Clam Bake, Bun In The Oven: Contractions With The Calamari Sisters, and The Calamari Sisters' Big, Fat, Italian Wedding.
Jay Falzone plays Delphine Calamari, the eldest daughter of Rocco and Vittoria Calamari. By age seven, she was helping her grandmother cater every major event at the legendary Rigatoni Lodge of the Brooklyn Federation of Italian-American Societies. Her love for meat began soon thereafter, and within a few years, she was known throughout Brooklyn as "that Italian girl that can tell you which butcher a sausage comes from with her eyes closed." By the time Delphine was a young woman, it was widely believed that unless you served Delphine's meatballs at your wedding reception, your marriage would be doomed, and you would never conceive a son to carry on your family name. In addition to cooking, Delphine has always been interested in the arts, singing countless duets with her sister, Carmela, at St. Lawrence of the Roasted Martyrs Church and Convent. Their nativity of cold meats and dairy was always a huge crowd pleaser at Christmastime. Also, as a young girl, Delphine attended Miss FloFlo's School of Dance for Bigger Girls, where she excelled until she was asked to leave due to an unfortunate fight with a fellow dancer, Tula Mercantelli, over a piece of Easter pie. Today, Tula is carrying her third illegitimate child by a third father, and it serves her right. Undaunted, Delphine was Founder and President of the Pasta and Meat Club at St. Lady of the Divine Pain High School. Upon graduating, she was fired from several restaurant jobs for forcing patrons to eat after they were full. Jobless, she teamed up with her sister, Carmela, and founded the borough-famous Calamari Sisters' Catering Company. They soon became known for their song-and-dance-and cooking routines. Knowing that the next natural step for them was television, they grabbed the opportunity when it presented itself. A few years ago, their Uncle JoJo accidentally went swimming without taking off his cement block and left them a large inheritance, which they used to finance their public access cable TV show, Mangia Italiano. Delphine thanks her family for all their support (except Aunt Viola, go to hell), especially Uncle Geno for being in the right place at the right time when this kitchen set fell off the back of that truck!
Stephen Smith plays Carmela Calamari, the sluttier daughter of Rocco and Vittoria Calamari, who weighed 15 pounds at birth. Carmela began turning heads with her cooking from a very young age, combining a lemonade stand with a kissing booth at the age of eight. After being promptly shut down by her uncle, and several of her customers mysteriously disappearing, she turned her attention to more conventional outlets and began competing in the Bay Ridge pageant circuit. While qualified, Carmela was crowned Miss Salami of Bay Ridge, first runner-up Miss Wooden Spoon of Bay Ridge, and Miss Congeniality for Miss Stuck Pig of Bay Ridge; always wowing the crowd with some extraordinary new and unusual talent. It was while competing for the famous Miss Macaroni of Greater Brooklyn when Carmela was allegedly caught feeding one of the judges minestrone soup out of her Gucci knock-off pump. Although never conclusively proven, she was disqualified from any and all future Italian pageants in all five boroughs. Never one to accept defeat, Carmela dove into helping her sister, Delphine, and their grandmother, cater events at the Rigatoni Lodge, becoming the fastest cake froster in all of Brooklyn. After graduation, Carmela attended DeVry University for a year and a half before pursuing her dream of a life in show biz. Public access cable was the answer. She became the star of Mangia Italiano.
A Little Christmas With The Calamari Sisters features Delphine and Carmela Calamari, two sisters who grew up in Bay Ridge and try to maintain the traditions passed down to them from their mother and grandmother, which means seven fishes (no meat) on Christmas Eve, calling neighbors to wish them a Merry Christmas, and decorating their Christmas tree with plastic lobster ornaments. The sisters dance, sing, tell jokes, cook, mix drinks and directly interact with the audience as they share stories about their relatives and talk behind the back of audience members brought up on stage to taste the food and try the drinks. The Christmas songs featured include Mambo Italiano, It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, I'll Be Home For Christmas, Dominick The Italian Donkey (with ventriloquism by Carmela), There's No Place Like Home For The Holidays, Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree, and finishing off with Put A Little Love In Your Heart (They really demand audience participation on this one!). Oblivious to the changing realities and demographics of Bay Ridge, they are under the false impression that their Jewish, Chinese, and Muslim neighbors are all still Italian (or possibly Sicilian) and celebrate Christmas. This leads to a hilarious skit during which the sisters speak to two of their neighbors and leave a message for the third. They really don't get it. They try to play peek-a-boo with Mohammed's wife, but she never plays back (her veil remains in place).
Carmela is the slut. She just gave up birth control for Lent and when she was in 9th grade, her fellow classmates called her The Calamari Petting Zoo (everyone felt her up). When Carmela criticized Delphine for having a mouthful of meat (i.e. prosciutto) in her mouth on Christmas Eve, Delphine responded, "Congratulations! You finally got to say that TO somebody!" Carmela even came on to horrified young men sitting in the audience and both sisters hit on Kevin, a handsome young Irish guy brought on stage with his female "friend," who they both promptly ignored. The Calamari Sisters told us that Jesus was half-Italian and that if you are married to an Italian, "you are Italian by injection." They even visited Italy in their "Christmas Around The World Tour." In Vatican City, they learned the "Virgin Mary never used a condom, and neither should you" and they also found out that China is "not just for Jews anymore." Many of the jokes told are decades old and most are groaners. For example, "What do a priest and a Christmas tree have in common? Answer: "The balls are just for decoration." Nevertheless, the jokes will still put a smile on your face.
Jay Falzone (Delphine) and Stephen Smith (Carmela) are two high-energy performers who are upbeat and entertaining. They interact with the audience and keep them fully engaged in whatever antics are taking place on stage. The Calamari Sisters made their own version of a drink they call the Italian Stallion (Galliano liqueur, Creme de Banana, Heavy Cream, blended with ice and garnished with a banana), which was available during intermission for a $4.00 donation. Other treats they made on opening night were squirreled away by the theater staff and only reluctantly shared with one or two audience members in the lounge. Is it a cooking show? Is it a spoof of Italian Christmas traditions? Is it a drag show? Yes, and much more. I think you will enjoy A Little Christmas With The Calamari Sisters. Some might find it a bit crass and if men dressed in drag is not your thing, then I would avoid this particular offering by Studio Theatre Long Island. If you are open-minded and ready to experience something completely different, I recommend you have a Calamari Christmas This Year. It's great fun!
You can catch A Little Christmas With The Calamari Sisters on December 17-20, 2015 (Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.) and December 26-27, 2015 (Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.) at Studio Theatre Long Island. Tickets cost $25.00 and can be purchased at https://www.studiotheatreli.com/ For more information about The Calamari Sisters, visit http://thecalamarisisters.com/ and like their Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/The-Calamari-Sisters-183946359080/