Congolese-American performer Simba Yangala told three of her friends “Come to my friend’s wedding.”
“They came on Congolese time,” she reports, so they missed the Tony n’ Tina ceremony and procession. At Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen and Grill, the three guys saw the bride and the groom, sat at their table with the beautiful red and white flower centerpiece and zebra stripe motif tablecloths and chair-backs set by the stunning Karen Corcoran, –which all immediately define the Tony n’ Tina experience as “Wedding.” They accepted the reality and sat down.
In 1997 at fifteen years old, Simba walked out of Lumbumbashi, then Zaire, when her parents’ tribes were at war. She made her way to New York and attended Newcomer’s High School in Queens. “We had students from 143 countries and even more languages spoken since most of the students spoke several languages especially the African students,” she reports, “I speak six languages.” Two of the guys she brought to Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding were from Kinchasa, and one from Kisangani, now the war torn Democratic Republic of the Congo. All have made New York City their home.
The first rustle in the fabric of reality came when the pasta and salad was served. The three guys asked for goat. “What kind of a wedding doesn’t serve meat and fish? See if the kitchen has goat meat.” Simba obliged and asked the caterers, the Black family—if there was any meat and fish.
“I went up the one who doesn’t smile and asked if they had fish.” (Nikki Black – played by powerhouse Concetta Rose Rella) “She looked at me in that way with that attitude and said, “Fish? The restaurant belongs to my Dad and I don’t care.” Then I went to the one in the blue dress. (Loretta Black played by superstar Susan Campanaro) and she came up to my friends and said, “The bride is Vegan so just eat what you got.”
“Your friends are weird,” the guys agreed, “who doesn’t have fish and goat at a wedding?” They sat politely and pretended that everything was fine, chocking it up to cultural differences. “Maybe this is the way it is in America.”
Grandma Nunzio visited their table and the three guys all said that they’d love to meet some nice American girls at the wedding, so Grandma obliged and brought them chicks all night long to talk and dance with. They seemed happy, but as Tony n’ Tina’s bizarre plot unwound and the characters come apart at the seams, the three guys became disconcerted and agitated.
“Wait the bride is drunk,” one said.
“The father in law is drunk,” said the second.
“Blasphemy! The mother-in-law and father-in-law are kissing!” yelled the third. And I saw the aluminum foil going to the tables. I am sure they are giving meat to some people just not us. Look, but don’t let them see you look. You see the aluminum foil going around?”
“Don’t tell the white people we are complaining.”
“The ex-boyfriend just stole the gift I saw him.”
“This wedding is bad. I heard the bride say she’s pregnant by the ex-boyfriend.”
The first guy began questioning the reality of it all. He’s a producer who runs the annual “Africa Awards.” He knows shows. The second guy, a documentary film cinematographer was ready to leave when Loretta Black pulled him to the dance floor and opened his shirt. He danced shirtless with all the groomsmen. “Ok,” he reasoned, “if it’s a crazy party we can be crazy too.”
At the end of the night Simba told the three, “I have to tell you. This is a play.” The first one laughed and accepted the fact, “Oh! It’s a show.” The second said, “But what kind of show is this?” and the third, a real estate agent refused to believe her. “No no no. This is not a play. This cannot be a play. She just doesn’t want to admit she has weird friends.”