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