Somewhat recommended * *Apparently playwright Ed Howard ran out of ideas for his Tuna (the third smallest town in Texas) series, so for the 35th anniversary of the original, he took parts of “Greater Tuna”, and combined them with the second Tuna play, “A Tuna Christmas”. The result is “Deep in the Heart of Tuna” which New American Folk Theatre apparently produced at his request, doesn’t measure up to “Greater Tuna’, “A Tuna Christmas” or Tuna #3, “Red, White and Tuna”. It isn’t even funny. 1 Spotlight
Over the years, I’ve seen all three of the Tuna plays more than once, many in community theater productions, all of which were better than this one. I think director Derek Van Barham missed the point. Timing is critical in any comedy. In any of the Tuna plays, the two actors need to make lightning fast switches between characters. Lightning fast means switching hats, wigs, and maybe shirts or jackets, instead of the entire outfit. Lightning fast means there shouldn’t be long lulls while they’re off stage changing!
Arles Struvie (Grant Drager) and Thursdon Wheelis (Anthony Whitaker), on-air personalities at Radio Station OKKK, serving the 37 residents of Greater Tuna, and their quirky take on the goings on in Tuna, anchor the play. They know who’s doing what to whom, and they’re glad to share that with their listeners. In every production I’ve ever seen, Arles and Thursdon are the segues between the eccentric residents of Tuna. In this production, we only saw them once, at the very beginning; every other appearance was recorded.
Although Kate Setzer-Kamphausen designed some gorgeous costumes for Grant Drager – who does make a gorgeous woman, especially in Tuna Gun Shop owner, Didi Snavely’s blonde wig and camouflage – the whole production was just too dependent on those costumes.
Staging and direction lacked focus too. A table and a couple of chairs occupied the center of the stage, with a sideboard/stereo cabinet on one side, a wall of guns and targets on the other. Whitaker, who played both Bertha Bumiller (mother of twins, Charlene and Stanley and their pet-loving little brother, Jody) and Pearl Burras who uses strychnine to keep neighborhood dogs out of her garden, had a lot of household tasks to complete in mime. Although there were a lot of phone calls, there weren’t any phones. It would have been easy to hang a wall phone on Didi’s wall, which Bertha and Pearl could both have used.
New American Folk Theatre’s “Deep in the Heart of Tuna” runs through March 5th in the Buena at Pride Arts Center, 4147 N. Broadway, Chicago.
Running time is about 80 minutes, no intermission.
Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 pm
Sunday at 3:00 pm.
Tickets are $20. Street parking is hard to find in this neighborhood. There are a couple of metered lots nearby. FYI (872) 588-5760 or www.newamericanfolktheatre.org
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Deep in the Heart of Tuna”