So I'm sitting at Little Lake Theatre watching the Pittsburgh premiere of Red, White & Tuna with both enjoyment and amazement. The play, set in a backwoods Texan town called Tuna, covers one Fourth of July and the shenanigans of the Tuna residents who are, to put it mildly, bizarre. Every boot-stomping, truck-driving, Confederate-flag waving, chicken-fried cliché gets a thorough airing, all amped to farcical effect.
What I find so amazing is that, along with Greater Tuna, Tuna Does Vegas and A Tuna Christmas, Red, White & Tuna completes a tetralogy! There's nothing in one of them that isn't in the other three. Yet writers Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard have gone to this Texan well four times.
Little Lake artistic director Sunny Disney Fitchett spent 10 years trying to get the rights to this one, and it's no wonder she expended the effort: Past Tuna productions have been huge Little Lake audience favorites. Judging from the sold-out Thursday-night (!) crowd's enthusiastic reception, Red, White & Tuna is set to carry on the tradition.
The Tunas' main theatrical gimmick is that two actors play all the town inhabitants; male, female, young, old, crazy or crazier. Little Lake Tuna veteran Art DeConciliis returns and, as usual, gives a master class in how to play comedy; the temptation to go big and broad (in more ways than one) must be almost irresistible for an actor, but DeConciliis sidesteps the hammy and brings humanity and integrity to each character. Kevin Bass -- a Tuna newcomer (but by no means a Little Lake novice) -- is every bit DeConciliis' equal in invention and ability. This guy knows how to make a joke work.
In the Tuna canon, I should say that Red, White isn't as slick as it ought to be. With a two-person cast, you need a certain amount of technical smarts so that no individual scene stops when an actor leaves the stage to change into the next character. There is too much downtime on stage during costume changes. But that flaw is in the writing, not the Herculean efforts of backstage dressers.
The biggest downside to the production is the realization that these subliterate, Bible-thumping, knowledge-phobic yahoos are the force behind the Tea Party and that, come November, they'll be running the country. Laugh now ... while you can.
Red, White & Tuna continues through Sat., Sept. 25. Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive South (off Route 19), Canonsburg. 724-745-6300 or www.littlelaketheatre.org
- Courtesy of James Orr
- Tour de farce: Kevin Bass (left) and Art DeConciliis in Little Lake's Red, White & Tuna.