Arles Struvie& Thurston Wheelis
R. R. and Didi Snavely
Stanley Bumiller and Sheriff Givens
Vera Carp and Pearl Burras
Chad Hartford and Bertha Bumiller
Reverend Spikes and Vera Carp
Petey Fisk and Bertha Bumiller
Pearl Burras and Stanley Bumiller
Thurston and Howard Dean Lattimer
Aug 23-Sep 15, 2013
Greater Tuna is described on the official website as a comedy in which "the Lion's Club is too liberal and Patsy Cline never dies". The multifarious citizens of this tiny, however "fictional", Texas town are all played by two actors; from men to women, to children and animals, they do it all.
This satire, first produced in 1981, remains as relevant today as it was when it began. The comedy is quick but the lessons lasting as the citizens of Tuna confront each other and the audience with issues of religious hypocrisy, political extremes, stunted educational and tax systems, racism and more. Writers Joe Sears, Jaston WIlliams, and Ed Howard have managed to create a play in which an audience can feel affection for, and learn from its characters, despite open bigotry, and a hideous level of commitment to retaining eccentric and harmful lifestyles. A review by Bridgette M. Redman says it best by saying that "There is an affection for these flawed individuals that acknowledges while their eccentricities may be individual, their deviation from an imagined norm is something everyone shares in some form."
If you've never been to Tuna, Texas before, be prepared for a journey that will make you laugh, make you think, make you question, then make you laugh again. If you are returning to Tuna, then welcome home. For we all, like the citizens of Tuna, are uniquely and irrevocably human.
The word that immediately comes to my mind for Greater Tuna is the Swedish "röligt" which at the same time means fun and funny. Greater Tuna was, for a time, the most produced play in America. Though some of the characters may seem over the top in their attitudes and beliefs, they are very recognizable. The play definitely has serious undertones as well as comic ones and great deal of it can be applied to America in 2013.
The challenge of mounting a work with 20 characters and many more costumes is huge and represents something that I have not done before. However, I was fortunate to have accomplished actors like Algernon D'Ammassa and David Reyes, who were willing to pull out all the stops. NSTC's Resident Designer Peter Herman made us a wonderful and functional set for the play, adding great lighting and special effects, and providing enormous help with refining the sound cues. Costume designers Gabriele and Lara Teich were willing to take on all challenges including Lara learning to play Honky Tonk Angels on the violin. With the "two Ronnies" (Karen Ross and Erin Williams working frantically backstage both dressing and picking up discarded costumes) and Danny Wade expertly running both light and sound cues, the process went smoother than I expected. Many thanks to everyone involved in making it both fun and funny. Have fun! It's funny!
| Leonard Childers,R.R. Snavely,Sheriff Givens,|
Pearl Burras,Bertha Bumiller,Reverend Spikes ,Thurston Wheelis
| Vera Carp,Petey Fisk ,Chad Hartford ,Stanley Bumiller,|
Howard Dean Lattimer,Didi Snavely,Arles Struvie
|Light And Scenic Design|
|Light And Sound Operator|
Broadcasting live from OKKK - 'Greater Tuna' brings life to the denizens of Tuna, Texas
- By Gerald M. Kane , Las Cruces Bulletin
Thirteen may be an "unlucky" number for some, but certainly not for Ceil and Peter Herman!
The directors of the acclaimed No Strings Theatre Company housed at the Black Box Theatre in the Downtown Mall, wisely decided to kick off the NSTC's thirteenth season with an excellently executed production of the hilarious "Greater Tuna" by Ed Howard, Jason Williams, and Joe Sears. The sold out opening night crowd could not get enough!
For those unfamiliar with "Greater Tuna" this truth-laced comedy which first appeared premiered in Austin in 1981 and quickly transferred to Off Broadway in 1982 for an extended run. Local productions have been mounted all over the country since then, because plot elements and characterizations are just as relevant today as they were in 1981.... perhaps more so!
The comedy itself is a loosely tied-together series of vignettes which take place in Tuna, the third smallest town in Texas where "the Lion's Club is too liberal and Patsy Cline never dies." Tying the show together are the programs on the local radio station OKKK (call letters for the station which ironically identify many of the town's values). Thurston Wheels and Arles Stuvie, the morning anchors, get the day rolling - giving us an immediate flavor for the town and its values. During the course of a very long day, the show concludes at moon rise as the town goes to sleep. During the course of the play we encounter twenty different personalities which constitute some of the more colorful residents of Tuna.
What makes "Greater Tuna" unique is that all the town's residents - male, female, young and old - are portrayed by two exceptional performers. The skills of Algernon d'Ammassa and David Reyes superceded my expectations of these remarkable, versatile actors. Their abilities to change characters, dialects, genders and mind sets within seconds is astounding.
As good as their performances are, the actors will tell you, they could not accomplish this by themselves. It takes a brilliant director and crew to shape each of the twenty characters' personalities, hone in their drawls, keep their energy going, and ensure they are wearing the correct costume at the appropriate time. Add into the mix comic timing, set changes, light and sound cues and you can see how many balls the director must juggle. No need for us to fear! Ceil Herman, whose sense of all of the above is sine qua non, ensures that every detail was in place for opening night. Brava Ceil!
I cannot let this review end without mentioning my choice for quintessential moment of the play, when I, along with the entire audience were ready to roll on the floor in laughter! Vera Carp (Reyes), the town snob, who is the vice president of the Smut Snatchers of the New Order, calls a meeting together to discuss which words to omit from all of Tuna's dictionaries. She bides her time until the arrival of the president of the organization, The Reverend Spikes (d'Ammassa) who proceeds to deliver a hilarious five minute eulogy to Judge Roscoe Buckner, a recently departed jurist with questionable judgments, personal behavior and morals. Replete with every platitude in the book, it goes on and on as Vera falls asleep in boredom. I don't ever remember laughing so loud and hard at a Black Box production!
Word of mouth has traveled so rapidly that the run of the play was extended for an additional week-end before the opening night performance! Without hesitation, I urge you to make reservations to see this marvelous production. And while you are at it, you ought to seriously consider purchasing season tickets which are well worth every penny of your entertainment dollar!
I attended the Black Box on opening night thirteen years ago. It's been a fun ride, and look forward to more innovative Black Box Theatre magic for many years to come.
"Greater Tuna" runs through Sunday, September 15 at the Black Box Theatre, 430 N Downtown Mall in Las Cruces. Performances will take place on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Sunday Matinees on September 1, 8, and 15 at 2:30 p.m. and Thursdays, August 23 and 30 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $12.00 regular admission, $10.00 for students and seniors over 65 and all seats on Thursday are $8.00. Season tickets (Preferred Patron Packets) for the 2013-2014 season are on sale. Call the Black Box Theatre (575) 523-1223 for reservations or online at www.no-strings.org
No seating plan has been posted.