Family’s central role in our lives is a bit odd considering you’re bonded by blood instead of choice. The built-in attachment can prove challenging at times, but also rewarding in a way few other relationships can match. Comedian Candice Guardino aims to show the hilarity in both sides of her own family experience with her one-woman show/musical, “Italian Bred” playing for one night at the State Theatre this weekend.
Guardino always enjoyed taking the stage throughout high school and college while growing up in New York City’s forgotten borough of Staten Island. But performing itself didn’t satisfy her as much as the thought of creating characters did, causing her to look inward for inspiration. The warm (if off-color) interactions she’d had with her family already filled her standup routines, so, Guardino thought, why not turn it into a cohesive production?
“It was easy because I have kind of been doing impersonations of them my whole life,” Guardino said. “For my comedy sets I would do one character at a time for about 10 or 15 minutes, so once I figured out how to combine them all in a single 60 minute story it came naturally.”
The narrator for “Italian Bred” is Guardino in her present day form, but she constantly turns the clock back to herself from ages six to when she was in college.
Some moments she touches on include when her grandma — who Guardino says treated her like a 30-year-old wise woman by the age of five — taught her how to make meatballs or faked an illness to get front row seats for them at a play. More intimate flashbacks touch upon when Guardino had her first period, which, in a family that interrogates you for closing your bedroom door, could prompt laughs.
What proved most challenging for Guardino was integrating the musical aspect into the play. She saved herself some effort by parodying popular songs, with slight alterations to avoid copying and pasting a hit into her work. But Guardino went to great lengths to ensure the music wasn’t an overt embellishment, and instead, a compliment to the story she was telling.
“It adds a whole new layer to a one-person show because I wanted people to forget it was only me up there,” Guardino added. “ If the music comes in and there’s a band playing, if feels like a full theatrical experience as opposed to an hour-long stand up routine.”
It’s why Guardino coined the term “theatrical comedy” to advertise her show. And also why virtual cameos from Mario Cantone (“Sex and the City”) and Steve Schirripa (“The Sopranos”) on a big screen in the play’s background further differentiate her performance from a pack of comedy specials. Her Italian upbringing also has some unique perks, with local eatery The Italian Store promoting Guardino’s show in lead-up to her Saturday performance.
Even with a title nodding at her Italian heritage, Guardino taps into the coming-of-age travails everyone goes through. Her post-show interactions with audience members prove as much.
Now, it’s up to Falls Church to see if Guardino can bring that relatability to the State Theatre stage.
“Italian Bred” will be showing at the State Theatre (220 N Washington St., Falls Church) at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24. For tickets, visit thestatetheatre.com.