Theater Review: Belly laughs at ‘Greater Tuna’

Depot Theatre has done itself proud with its latest production of “Greater Tuna.” Written by Jaston Williams, Ed Howard and Joe Sears “Greater Tuna” drops us immediately into the small town of Tuna, Texas with all its quirks and a crazy cast of characters.

Bonnie Brewer transforms the stage into a slice of Texas with sweeping plains and a minimalist set. Margaret Swick’s lighting subtly alters time and place converting the stage from radio station to church with a flip of a switch. Director Chan Harris drives this comedy through its many vignettes into small town life through an array of southern archetypes. It’s a daunting task as Harris also performs as half of this comedic duo.

The play opens as OKKK radio disc jockeys Thurston Wheelis and Arles Struvie (Trip Plymale) are reporting on the winning essay contest for the area surrounding the town of Tuna, Texas. The story moves lightening fast to the residents listening to the radio while performing their daily duties.

Laughter rang in the aisles as each new character was introduced. Though the numerous costume changes, bouffant wigs and polyester floral prints allowed the actors to disappear into each character, it was the actors’ distinctive drawl and quirky mannerisms that drove each storyline. There is darkness in even the most lighthearted character, but Plymale and Harris’s perfect comedic timing glosses over the more blatant stereotypes.

I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite character though my daughter is quick to revere Trip Plymale’s Vera Carp, the town snob and VP of the Smut-Snatchers who falls asleep during the Reverend Spikes’ eulogy for Judge Buckner.

The audience was filled with a variety of ages from very young children to seniors. There is a bit of language in the play, but nothing that was shocking. “Greater Tuna” is not a highbrow comedy but relies on easy laughs, kudos to Harris and Plymale for pulling it off so brilliantly.