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Albuquerque
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Tuna Does Vegas
The Vortex Theatre

Also see Dean's review of The Waiting Room


Patrick Ross and Adam Kidd
The Tuna plays are immune to criticism, I'm sure, but I'll give it a shot anyway. Tuna Does Vegas is the fourth and probably the last play in the series. The first, Greater Tuna, opened in 1981 and by 1985 was reportedly the most performed play in the country. You can see why it would be so popular with community theaters: How many plays are there where the biggest expense is costumes?

A Tuna Christmas and Red, White and Tuna completed a trilogy and, from what I've heard (I've only seen one of the three), were real audience-pleasers as well. But, as with many successful TV shows, the series goes on a little bit longer than it should. Tuna Does Vegas has a very good first act (my face was almost sore from smiling all the way through it), but inspiration flags in the second half, and there's a little too much filler material to make for a satisfying conclusion to the series.

The premise of the play is that Arles Struvie mentions on the radio that he and his wife Bertha are going to Las Vegas to renew their wedding vows. Before they can leave, almost everyone else in the town of Tuna (the third smallest in Texas) decides that they are going to Vegas too. As someone says, where else can you see "Venice without the pigeons, New York without the Yankees, and Paris without the French"? The first act is devoted to reintroducing us to characters we know from the earlier plays, and it's pretty hilarious.

The second half takes place mostly in Vegas, and here's where the play sort of flattens out. Scenes with a hairdresser, an acupuncturist, hotel room TV porn, and two Elvises (Elvi?) go nowhere, and most of the Tuna citizens barely appear. I felt the energy kind of dissipate, but not for lack of trying by the actors.

Adam Kidd and Patrick Ross play all umpteen characters, and they both give tour-de-forceperformances. The Tuna plays always depend on the versatility, talent, charm and professionalism of the two actors, and these two have got all of these in spades. They are funny and believable in both the male and female roles, their accents are impeccable, and the speed of their costume changes is sometimes beyond belief (and they did their own costumes, with a few from De La Noche).

Almost never do the dressers backstage get any credit, but here there are four of them, and they should have their names in print for their amazing work: Carol Thornton, Nikki Nevitt, Caroline Hess, and Terrye Mola.

A play like this demands perfect timing, since even a few seconds of dead air canruin the whole illusion. Under the direction of Dean Eldon Squibb, this production pulls it off without a hitch. I'm recommending the play because it's such a kick seeing two excellent performers do their thing so well. I just wish the second half of the fourth play had lived up to everything that came before.

Tuna Does Vegas by Joe Sears, Jaston Williams, and Ed Howard, is being performed at the Vortex Theatre in Albuquerque through December 16, 2012. Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 2:00. Info at vortexabq.org or 505-247-8600.


Photo: Alan Mitchell Photography

--Dean Yannias



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