Vagabond Players’ first show of their 100th season starts off with a bang with the well-known comedy, Greater Tuna. Directed by Anthony Lane Hinkle and written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard, Vagabond’s production is two hours spent laughing out loud.
Tuna debuted in Austin, Texas, in the fall of 1981, and had its off-Broadway premiere in 1982. The name of this show comes from the fictional town of Tuna, Texas, known as the third smallest town in the State. The denizens of this micropolis include radio show hosts, a used gun shop owner, an animal lover and a mother raising some delinquent children. The characters are charming and funny, but when you realize that all the characters are played by only two actors, changing costumes and characters at the blink of an eye – Greater Tuna becomes the funniest town in the county.
Vagabond’s production is two hours spent laughing out loud.
Greater Tuna introduces the audience to the rural, simple and prejudiced town members as they go about their everyday lives. It is all introduced by two radio hosts, Thurston Wheelis (Steven Shriner) and Arles Struvie (Brain M. Kehoe) with live feed segments broadcasting from various locations. For example, weather broadcaster Harold Dean Lattimer (Kehoe) reports about the plague of locusts coming in from East Texas, predicting that the floodwaters moving in from the North will blunt their effect.
Radio station manager Leonard Childers (Shriner) invites young Charlene Bumiller (Kehoe) to recite her award-winning poem, “Tuna, My Tuna,” accompanying her own performance with pompoms because to Charlene “girls are nothing if they aren’t cheerleaders.” The audience is also treated the lives of other town members including a bumbling KKK recruiter (Shriner) and Reverend Spikes (Shriner), who gives an improptu eulogy consisting of nothing but a string of wild cliches.
Shriner and Kehoe juggle an impressive line-up of over-the-top characters — and their costumes. The amount of energy needed to carry off this show is amazing, and I didn’t see either actor break a sweat once. They both seamlessly morphed into one character after another so I easily that I got lost in each individual persona. I also have to mention Rob Vary and Torberg M. Tonnessen for assisting all the behind-the-scenes quick changes. They really are “Wardrobe Magicians.”
Greater Tuna collects all characteristics that are funny in people, and even though Tuna is a made-up town, most of us can recognize quirks and personalities that remind us of our Great Aunt or Grandpa Joe (or ourselves). It is easy to relate to and laugh with these outrageous characters.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours with one 15 minute intermission.
Greater Tuna runs through September 27, 2015 at The Vagabond Players, 806 South Broadway, in Fells Point, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets click here.