RED, WHITE, AND TUNAby Edward Howard, Joe Sears, Jaston Williams
Richardson Theatre Centre
Dan Evers : Star Birdfeather, Thurston Wheelis, Elmer Watkins, Joe Bob Lipsey, Pearl Burras, Bertha Bumiller, R.R. Snavely, Inita Goodwin, Leonard Childers, Reverend Sturgis Spikes
Nathan Willard : Amber Windchime, Arles Struvie, Didi Snavely, Petey Fisk, Momma Byrd, Charlene Bumiller, Stanley Bumiller, Vera Carp, Helen Bedd, Garland Poteet
Reviewed Performance: 7/16/2016
Reviewed by Christopher Soden, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Mishaps and tribulations abound. Tainted potato salad, eleventh hour cold feet, an upset in the election for Reunion Queen, pregnancy out of wedlock. What otherwise might be treated as the stuff of melodrama is exploited for comic purposes. Howard, Sears and Williams are never cruel, but neither do they prevaricate. Well, not exactly. Joe Bob Lipsey is elected Reunion Queen, and while obviously camp and distasteful to some, nobody’s threatening to lynch him or vandalize his house. The citizens of Tuna may not be the most enlightened, but they draw the line at thuggery. Though the town radio station is WKKK, the uglier implications of those call letters are never pursued.
For those of you who may not be acquainted with the Tuna Trilogy just like The Mystery of Irma Vep, two men play all 22 roles (though I suppose you could cast more) the way the creators, Sears and Williams premiered Tuna, Texas, back in the day. The costume changes are rapid and though they make no pretense at convincing drag, it’s actually much funnier that way. And some of Tammy Partanen’s costumes do look like actual women. Think: wigs, wigs, wigs! The minimalist set (lack wall with a few pieces of furniture) helps to keep things moving. I cannot say whether those who are not native Texans find these Lone Star stereotypes amusing, but for me, their familiarity made them better.
It’s a curious mix, this Red, White and Tuna, a somewhat affectionate, cartoony skewering of the racism, pettiness, military extremist, Coldwater Baptist myopia that seems to prevail in Texas. The caricaturing actually seems to work in its favor, so it better when it’s crisp, rather than pensive. This is kind of a touchy time to be raising such issues, but perhaps that could be all to the good. That all being said, co-stars Dan Evers and Nathan Willard tackle this logistical nightmare with grace and aplomb. It can’t be easy keeping each scene distinct and the pace steady. It was much easier to follow the dialogue than I’ve seen in other productions. Evers and Willard communicate the quirky pleasure of text with mastery.
Red, White and Tuna
Playing July 15th-31st, 2016
518 West Arapaho Road
Richardson, Texas 75080