Sunday, February 4, 2018

Wetumpka Depot: "Greater Tuna"

Ed Howard, Joe Sears, and Jaston Williams began what was to become a cottage industry in 1981 with their creation of Greater Tuna [A Tuna Christmas, Red, White, and Tuna, and Tuna Does Vegas followed in quick succession]. -- Their popularity relies on an affectionate humor, some biting satire, and the fact that the 20+ characters are to be played by two actors.

Director Kristy Meanor opens the Wetumpka Depot Players' 38th Season with an assured production of Greater Tuna by casting a man and a woman in the roles, losing none of the play's bite, and allowing David and Brooke Brown numerous opportunities to display their ample talents impersonating the broadly eccentric men and women who populate the fictitious town of Tuna, Texas, the State's 3rd smallest town with a population of twenty-four.

Though there are some dated references in the script, its strengths are that it skewers many stereotypical characters and situations that are not confined by time, and that the actors continuously keep audiences entertained by their quick-as-lightning costume changes. Most of the characters are broadly drawn rubes who seem content with being insulated from the greater world, and most of these social misfits are instantly recognizable: over-zealous religious fanatics, families with a lot of skeletons in their closets that are actually known by everyone else in this tiny community, dialogue that spouts a lot of homespun philosophy, naive and not-so-innocent individuals who beg for audience understanding and compassion. Just like real life.

A plot device that holds everything together is a radio program hosted by Arles and Thurston, whose sole purpose seems to be informing the locals about the goings-on in town, engaging with various residents in call-ins to the station, and commenting on their odd behavior. -- We see among others: the "Smut Snatchers of the New Order" attempt to censor offensive textbooks and words while remaining oblivious to their hypocrisy; a man who sees UFOs shaped like a giant chalupa; an overweight teenaged girl desperately attempting to become a cheerleader; a woman who poisons dogs; a reform school bully who unrepentantly takes the law into his own hands against the judge who sentenced him; and a sincere young man who leads the "Greater Tuna Humane Society" against the odds stacked against him.

Hats off to the hard working backstage dressers who assist the actors with their many costume changes; but mostly to the actors who create distinct characters that make us laugh and cry, applaud and cringe, and leave the theatre with a bit more understanding of our fellows.