Reviewed by Stephen Radosh
Coyote Stageworks latest play has brought their first decade of performances full circle with a restaging of their very first presentation, GREATER TUNA. Not only is the play the same but so is its two-man cast. So how has a 10 year gap treated the production? VERY WELL!
For those of you who are not familiar with this very funny and occasionally very moving play, let me enlighten you. We are in a town called Tuna, the third smallest town in Texas but filled with a variety of citizens who attack life in their very own, and quite often, warped way. Not to say that Tuna is filled with crazies but most of the townsfolk we meet during the one day we get to spend there sometime in the late 1970’s, are missing at least a few screws.
Thurston Wheelis and Arlis Struvie, two of the more normal inhabitants, share the microphone at the local radio station OKKK, delivering all the news at various times of day, that is, when they haven’t misplaced it or forgotten to turn on the power for the transmitter. There’s the judge who nobody liked and apparently died while dressed in a woman’s swimsuit. Petey Fisk shows up several times throughout the evening as he desperately gets someone to adopt the unadoptable mutt aptly named Yippy. The town drunk who has seen a UFO shows up but is not believed by anyone who will listen to his tale. Then there’s Pearl Burras who poisons any dog who dares to venture near her chickens. When she accidentally poisons her husband’s champion and very expensive dog, Ripper, devises a scheme to avoid the blame that is like the dark side of an I LOVE LUCY episode.
These are just a few of the 20 or so characters woven throughout the evening. What is really remarkable is that they are all played by just two actors; Alan Denny and Chuck Yates. Aided by some really quick costume changes, these characters seem to flow seamlessly in and out of the play. These two wonderful performers make each of the townsfolk unique and instantly identifiable. With the speed in which it these changes happen, it is truly a testament to their skill as actors. Bravo.
Greater Tuna is not a world-class play, nor is it a profound examination of Southern living such as in AUGUST, OSAGE COUNTY or in many of the great plays from the Tennessee Williams catalog. What it is, is a fascinating and frequently funny collection of somewhat stereotypical Southerners, stumbling and bumbling their way through the day and brought fully to life by Mr. Denny and Mr. Yates. So, go see GREATER TUNA and take a trip to Tuna, Texas. They’ll make you feel right at home and you’ll be glad you went!