For Adolts Only

From L to R: Sean Riley and Michael McIntire play the citizens of Tuna, TX in ‘Greater Tuna’

Welcome to Tuna, TX, home of the most eccentric, bizarre, and moronic people you’re likely to find on the planet.  Join them for a day in their lives in Greater Tuna which is currently playing at Maples Repertory Theatre.

This play is the first in a series about the peculiar citizenry of Tuna.  The shows are constructed as a combination of sketch comedy and soap opera.  The characters and situations are over the top and some storylines don’t get wrapped up until future shows.  One thing the shows have in common is that only 2 actors play the town’s citizens making it a showcase for character performers.

Marc Liby provides some skillful direction for this production.  He keeps the pace going at the speed of a bullet train to rev up the comedy’s momentum and knows how to keep the many individual story arcs bright and interesting.  His shaping of the actors’ numerous characters is stellar as each character has his or her own life with a change in costume, voice, and posture.

With only 2 actors to play a town of oddballs, skilled, versatile actors are a must and this show has got them in the form of 2 of MRT’s favorite sons:  Michael McIntire and Sean Riley.

McIntire and Riley’s timing is polished to a fine sheen and I think they set a record with their blitzkrieg costume changes.  Both also brilliantly essay the many lunatics of this town and are guaranteed to have you laughing from the diaphragm by the time the night is through.

Michael McIntire plays most of the town’s intense characters.  Some favorites were his rendition of Bertha Bumiller, a tough as nails morality freak who leads an organization to ban literature such as Romeo & Juliet due to its depiction of teenage sex and Roots because it only presents one side of the story; Elmer Watkins, a conspiracy theory fueled survivalist; and radio host Harold Dean who delights in blaring the town’s issues while dodging a stalker.  But his capstone character was Reverend Spikes who gives a rather energetic and lascivious eulogy which had the audience howling.

Sean Riley plays most of Tuna’s dopes and nerds.  Some of his classic performances include his take on the dorky Petey Fisk, the head of the local SPCA who often smuggles dogs to the Bumillers through their youngest child; the deadpan and potentially deadly Didi Snavely who runs the local weapons shop; his laconic Arles Struvie who hosts the thrice daily news broadcasts and is one of the few townsfolk with a couple of brain cells.  But his most surprising character is Stanley Bumiller, the ne’er do well son of Bertha who takes one of the show’s storylines in a shockingly dark direction with his grudge against a judge who sentenced him to reform school.

Kerri Packard certainly had her work cut out for her with this show, but her costumes suit the personalities of each of the town’s characters with the overalls and flannels of some of the hick characters, the frumpy dresses of the town’s elderly women, the con artist suit of Rev Spikes, and the clothing of Stanley Bumiller which seemed inspired by Mike Myers’ Wayne character from Wayne’s World.  Clayton Dombach keeps his set fairly simple with a large friendly sign welcoming people to Tuna and his backdrop depicting a farm community.  Mike Ekelburg’s sounds boost the comedy especially with the UFO scene which was influenced by Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Shon Causer’s lights always suit the emotional thrusts of the various scenes.

This is pure escapist comedy which will make you forget about life for a while and provide the healing magic of laughter.  Take a night to lose yourself in humor.

Greater Tuna runs at Maples Repertory Theatre through August 1.  The show has 2pm showtimes on June 26, July 2-3, 7, 13, 18, 20-21, 30, and August 1 and 7:30pm showtimes on July 9, 17, 23, 28, and 31. Tickets begin at $26 and can be obtained by calling the box office at 660-385-2924 or visiting www.maplesrep.com.  Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

Photo provided by Maples Repertory Theatre

Maples Repertory Theatre Announces 2021 Season: Looking Forward

I Love a Piano

June 16 – July 11

This celebration of music and lyrics of Irving Berlin follows the journey of a piano as it moves in and out of American lives from the turn of the century to the present. Along the way, the story comes to vibrant life as the cast sings and dances over sixty of Irving Berlin’s most beloved songs including “Blue Skies”, “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, “Always”, “White Christmas”, and, of course, “I Love a Piano”.

Greater Tuna

June 23 – August 1

Two men play the entire cast of over twenty eccentric characters of both genders and various ages who live in the second smallest town in Texas. It’s an affectionate comment on small-town life and attitudes. Two of Maples Rep’s favorite comedic actors, Michael McIntire and Sean Riley, are slated to star.

Annie

July 16 – August 8

Everyone’s favorite orphan takes the Maples Rep stage to remind us all that optimism and hope will win the day.  Featuring a Tony Award-winning score including “Tomorrow” “Maybe” “It’s the Hard Knock Life” and “Little Girls”.  Annie is a lively, exuberant show loved by all ages.

Church Basement Ladies: You Smell Barn

September 29 – October  17

The ladies of the East Cornucopia Lutheran Church are famous for keeping the church running and meeting every hilarious challenge head on.  The new musical follows them home to see how chores family life test their mettle.  It’s nothing a hot dish can’t cure.

Ripcord

October 27 – November 7

Abby has always had a quiet room to herself at the Bristol Place Senior Living Facility. If a new roommate was assigned to the second bed, Abby – cantankerous and private – quickly got them out. That is until enthusiastic, optimistic Marilyn arrives. Soon Abby realizes that unseating Marilyn is going to take something special. A high-stakes bet quickly leads to an all-out war of comic proportions. Ripcord is an often slapstick, always surprising comedy about enemies who may or may not become friends.

Tis The Season: A Maples Rep Holiday Celebration

December 1-12

Christmas traditions come to life on stage in the all new, singing and dancing extravaganza.  Your favorite holiday songs and characters will delight the whole family.  It’s the perfect way to celebrate the season with your family and friends.

For tickets, visit http://maplesrep.com/tickets/. Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

The Stars this Night Shone Very Bright, Deep in the Heart of Tuna

Welcome to Tuna, TX.  This little town has backwater yokels, ultra “Christians”, secessionist goofballs, and elderly women viciously vying for a class reunion crown.  Incidentally, all of these citizens are played by just two men.  This is Red, White and Tuna currently playing at the Bellevue Little Theatre.

This play is the third part of a trilogy written by Jason Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard.  This particular chapter takes place during the Fourth of July.  The play is written as a series of vignettes featuring the peculiar citizenry of this town.  Some of the short stories are connected while others are standalone.  Due to this unique style of writing, some of the play’s stories are more satisfying than others.  Those that do work are pieces of utter perfection.

I admit to being more of a smiler and chuckler when I watch comedies as I can usually spot the punchline coming from a distance.  But this play had moments that caught me so off guard and had me laughing so hard that I thought I was going to pass out.  Credit for this monumentally funny night goes to Kim Clark-Kaczmarek for her excellent direction and the magnificent work of her performers, Noah Diaz and Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek.

Ms Clark-Kaczmarek’s direction is a nifty piece of work.  She led her actors to extremely well-developed characters (each play 10 distinct personas), created sharp pieces of business to mask the time needed for costume changes, and kept the play moving with a brisk, energetic pace.

Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek is at his clownish best as he sinks his teeth into the quirky characters of Tuna.  His delivery is so smooth and sure that one would think all of his dialogue is extemporaneous.  Clark-Kaczmarek also adopts a different posture and voice for each of his characters, making certain that the audience is in for a surprise each time he steps onto the stage.

Highlights of Clark-Kaczmarek’s myriad performances included the gun toting, gravelly voiced, potty mouthed, Didi Snavely, who owns the used gun store and is waiting out the day so she can finally have her missing husband declared legally dead, the nerdy, reedy-voiced, slouching, Petey Fisk, who values pests and insects above humanity, and Vera Carp, the snobbish, prudish “Christian” who spends her days banning books for words like “poke”.

Noah Diaz was quite amusing in spite of being slightly off his game.  His energy was a little low in Act I, but increased dramatically in Act II.  He also needed to be a bit louder.  Diaz found his volume at the top of Act II, but it began to wane again towards the end of the show.  I attribute a lot of this to the fact that Diaz very recently finished doing double duty as director and actor for another show in the metro area.

Like Clark-Kaczmarek, Diaz nuanced the tar out of his multiple characterizations, but needed to work on the voices for his characters as many sounded the same.  Diaz has a great gift for physical comedy best demonstrated with his histrionics as Joe Bob Lipsey, the local artiste who is upset that he can’t sing about champagne for a show since Tuna is in a dry county, his Michael Jacksonesque gyrations as R.R. Snavely as he communicates with aliens, and his inability to get through any door with his walker as Pearl Burras.

As brilliant as the performances from the actors were, Diaz and Clark-Kaczmarek do need to be certain to maintain their characters as they broke each other up on a couple of occasions.

Lindsay Pape’s costumes were just right for the show ranging from stereotypical overalls to the rather buxom clothing for a couple of Diaz’s female characters.  Tony Schik’s sound design struck all of the right notes with classic country tunes and the radio broadcasts voiced by Diaz and Clark-Kaczmarek.

If you like pure, escapist comedy then you will love Red, White and Tuna.  With the gutbusting work of Diaz and Clark-Kaczmarek, the tears will be streaming down your eyes before the night is out.

Red, White and Tuna plays at the Bellevue Little Theatre through June 5.  Performances are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, and $10 for students with proper ID.  Reservations can be made by calling 402-291-1554 between the hours of 10am-4:30pm Mon-Sat.  The Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 E Mission Ave in Bellevue, NE.