Submitted by LCT Panelist
Two hardworking actors playing 21 zany characters are the comedic centerpiece of Greater Tuna. Justin Smith and Matt Wilson earn the audience’s laughter and ovations in the production now playing at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts.
The setting is Tuna, the third-smallest town in Texas, and a place where “the Lions Club is too liberal and Patsy Cline never dies.” The glue of the town is the local radio station, where no piece of news or gossip is too unimportant to be broadcast, and where everyone with an opinion is invited to call in.
And in this satire, everyone has a politically incorrect opinion. The Smut Snatchers group wants to remove books from the high school library, specifically “Roots,” because “it doesn’t properly present the other side of slavery,” and “Romeo and Juliet,” because “it just shows teenagers having sex.”
A Ku Klux Klan member makes a conspiracy case against Agent Orange when he notes that he hired several Vietnam vets; only four of them died and none turned orange. The owner of a used weapons shop advertises that all her products are “guaranteed to kill.”
And there is the elderly woman who routinely poisons dogs who come into her yard. This time, she accidentally poisons her husband’s valuable bird dog, then runs over it with the car to hide her crime.
This is Greater Tuna – consistently in bad taste, always offensive. But it can be funny. Director Bob Brunner makes that case in his program notes: “Greater Tuna is irreverent and wrong on so many levels. Prepare to laugh.”
Easier to admire is Covedale’s production of Greater Tuna. Actors Smith and Wilson move seamlessly among their characters – men, women, teenagers to senior citizens, each with a costume and wig change. Kudos to costume designer Caren Young and her team of quick-change artists: Betsy Brunner Kline, Natasha Boeckmann and Melanie Hall.
Smith and Wilson make each character (caricature, actually) distinct by voice and movement. A highlight is when they draw the audience into the scene, as a stand-in for a church congregation.
Also to be admired is the set, designed by Brett Bowling. The huge barn façade is decorated with old metal signs for Esso and beer, including one that reads “Hippies use back door,” and flanked by an old-time TV antenna and an oil derrick. Cleverly, the hayloft door opens and becomes the radio station studio.
Greater Tuna runs through Feb. 15. Call 513-241-6550 for ticket information.