By admin on May 29, 2009 | In ATW Reviews
Two men play 21 characters to bring to life Texas’ third smallest town in Greater Tuna, produced locally as part of The Bushnell’s 2009 Broadway season. The transitions to various characters by actors Neal Mayer and Bran Mathis, directed by Robert Tolaro, are well done, but what the men, women, children and animals of Tuna, have to say seems dated, not all that funny and suggests the shelf life for this comedy might have expired.
The show began more than 30 years ago in Texas as a party skit based on a cartoon and went on to phenomenal success with a national tour, a short Broadway run in 1994 and productions in high schools coast to coast and spawned several sequels: A Tuna Christmas, Red White and Tuna and Tuna Does Vegas.. The social satire, which pokes fun at life in a rural community, might have been ground-breaking 30 years ago, but in 2009 it smells like a fish left out in the sun too long.
All of the action takes place on a very simple set (design by Kevin Rupnik) with a backdrop featuring some local business signs and it's behind this that the two actors can slip to make their costume changes. Two tables and chairs on either side of the stage represent all of the locations.
As the play progresses, two radio commentators relate all the latest Tuna news and gossip. During the sports report we’re told that factors contributing to the local football team’s loss include their inability to score a point while the other team made seven touchdowns. Now if you’re splitting your sides over that joke, you’ll love the rest of the news, sponsored by “Didi’s Used Ammunition.” A weather report about a swarm of locusts and an appeal from the Humane Society pleading the plight of homeless ducks eclipse the big news story of the day, the death of a prominent judge found wearing a Dale Evans swimsuit. Oh, but the broadcasters forgot to flip the “on air” switch, so no one heard any of that and they start again.
A bunch of other locals join the action, among them Vera Carp, heading a campaign to limit the number of Spanish phrases taught in the schools to a few that “red-blooded Americans” might need to know. There's also Vera's pastor, the Reverend Spikes, who puts her to sleep with a cliché-laden eulogy for the departed judge. Their Baptist church, where everyone is welcome, “even Catholics,” leads a crusade to ban undesirable books like “Roots” (it only tells one side of the slave issue) “Huckleberry Finn” (it has a pre-teen boy acting badly), and “Romeo and Juliet” because it features teenage sex.
Head of the book banning committee is Charlene Bumiller, who has some issues of her own. Her daughter is moping around after not making the cheerleading squad for the seventh year in a row, her husband might be having an affair and in a really bizarre plot twist, her nephew might actually be a murderer. And if that’s not enough angst, Charlene poisoned her husband’s prized hunting dog, so she and the nephew run it over with a truck to make it look like an accident.
There may be a few sparks of humor in "Tuna,," but they come from another era, and even if they bring a chuckle the first time, the piece's repetition of them (how many times can you laugh at a guy dressed in the ridiculous dresses from costume designer Linda Fisher or poke fun at Baptists?) quickly makes us think Greater Tuna has outlived its expiration date.
---- Lauren Yarger
Greater Tuna plays at The Bushnell (166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, CT) through May 31. Performance times are 7:30 Thursday; 8pm Friday; 2 and 8 pm Saturday and 2pm and 7:30 pm. Tickets are $20-$65 and can be purchased by calling 860-087-5900 or by visiting www.bushnell.org.
No feedback yet
|« ATW Review - Make Me - Intricate Comedy About Three Couples at Crossroads||ATW Review - The Glass Menagerie - New Take on Classic Breaks More Than Tradition »|