Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Greater Tuna
The Vortex Theatre
Review by Stephanie Hainsfurther


Brennan Foster and Shawn Boyd
Photo by Ryan Dobbs
Greater Tuna and its sister plays (Red, White and Tuna, A Tuna Christmas, and Tuna Does Vegas) are an acquired taste, one I acquired quickly when I saw Tuna Does Vegas at the old Vortex Theatre a few years ago. Back then I brought a friend who grew up in small-town Oklahoma and Texas to interpret for me. This time around, we just went to revisit Tuna and laugh together.

Brennan Foster and Shawn Boyd deftly handle all 19 parts in Greater Tuna, and you'll warm especially to their radio station OKKK disc jockeys duo of Arles Struvie (Foster) and Thurston Wheelis (Boyd). When they remember to hit the power button, Arles and Thurston provide the background music and local news for life in Tuna, Texas, a boil on the butt of the nation to everyone but its inhabitants.

Two men playing all of the parts, including the females, makes for a madcap two hours, and Foster and Boyd do not disappoint. Veteran actors of Albuquerque theatre, these two make the most of corn and pone and don't drop a line. Foster plays all three weird children—Charlene, Stanley and Jody—of Boyd's Bertha Bumiller, member of Smut-Snatchers of the New Order and wife to lyin', cheatin' Hank. Boyd also plays Bertha's Aunt Pearl Burras, who loves to kill dogs. Foster plays two other women in town, each a hoot in her own right: Vera Carp, town snooty person and VP of Smut-Snatchers; and Didi Snavely, owner of Didi's Used Weapons ("If we can't kill it, it's immortal").

Is burning books and killing living things hilarious? Well, it can be, even now. And so my notes are not for the playwrights or the actors but for the audience.

Greater Tuna needs a rowdy crowd. I found the Sunday matinee audience way too polite. Go ahead and boo Elmer Watkins the Klan guy! No, the KKK never was funny but you don't have to turn cold as a brass commode on a glacier. Let him know he's not "the right kind of people." Hoot for sexy Sheriff Givens's strip tease! Mock the dead judge who gave Stanley four years in juvenile jail for spray painting a stop sign! You do get a "thumbs up" for "aaawwwing" good-hearted Petey Fisk of the Greater Tuna Humane Society, and for laughing most of the way through this basically good-hearted play.

Director Marc Comstock gets Tuna and you will, too. So does set dresser Leslee Richards; she gets an award for the bumper sticker glued to the counter at OKKK: "I'm from Texas. What Country Are You From?" I did miss the cook and the waitress from the Tastee Kreme Diner, Inita Goodwin and Helen Bedd, but I suppose the diner's not open for bidness just yet. Greater Tuna is the darkest of the four iterations, but one thing's for certain—it's a helluva good time.

Through August 6, 2017, Friday-Saturday 7:30 p.m.; Sunday 2 p.m. General admission $22, Students $15, (505) 247-8600, vortexabq.org/


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