Having premiered in Edinburgh in 1988, Joe Sears, Jaston Williams and Ed Howards humorously disturbing portrayal of small town America returns for its 20th anniversary. The characters are funny, the costumes entertaining and the performances impressive, but the moseying script fails to truly grab.
Tuna is the third smallest town in Texas, where the Lions Club is considered too liberal, textbooks too blasphemous and the end of segregation a sad loss. The play begins and ends with a news report from OKKK, the local radio station that has a habit of losing the news. Susie McCarthy and Michael-Anthony Nozzi present a medley of twenty-one of Tunas bizarre characters, darting offstage for forty-seven lightning-fast scene changes. Both possess great comic timing and impersonation skills, making each of their character portraits distinctive and believable. Easily the best is Bertha Bumiller (captured by Nozzi), an unhappy housewife and mother who fills her time with committees such as Citizens for Fewer Blacks in Literature and Smut Snatchers of the New Order.
The main problem is that, while having such a small cast makes the show incredibly impressive, it is hard for just two actors to retain the pace, especially when the script they are working with has a tendency to meander. Also, though the play premiered in the UK, I cant help but feel some of the references are just too American for a British audience. For instance, even after living in America for two years, I had to look up what a Lions Clubs was and Id only heard of two of the four books Bertha Bumiller wanted to censor.
There are some really hilarious moments in this play, mostly because they ring true with the Bible belt stereotypes we are so used to hearing, but sadly these laughs are unsustained. Watching Greater Tuna is a bit like channel hopping to Fox News for the entertainment value; its funny for a while, but eventually your amusement turns to horror.