Arts Runoff: Greater Tuna

Arts Runoff is a Middblog series of performance reviews, originally written by JP Allen ’11. Emily Jacke ’12.5 has taken over the series for the fall.

I have to begin with a disclaimer—I am the costume designer for this show, and therefore heavily biased. That being said, I intend to give you my very honest opinion of this show (so consider me honestly biased.) 

Hepburn Zoo Theatre Fri 8 & 10:30, Sat 8. Tickets $4.

Summary: Greater Tuna, the brainchild of Ed Howard, Joe Sears & Jaston Williams, is a two man show which takes us through a day in the life of the fictional town of Tuna, TX by way of its local radio station. A snappy comedy replete with characters bizarre, familiar and familiarly bizarre, Greater Tuna explores the idiosyncrasies of a small backwards American town, taking on racism, censorship and family life with gusto, guffaws and even some gravitas. The production is the senior work in acting for Nathaniel Rothrock, ‘12.5. Nicholas Hemerling, ‘14.5, costars. Each plays 8-9 roles.

Teddy Anderson, ‘13.5 directs. Costumes by Emily Jacke, ‘12.5 (yours truly), lights by Alan Sutton, ’14, & sound by Grace Bell ’13. Anna Parker, ‘15.5 stage manages, Angela Santee, ’13 runs lights, stagehand Robbie Seltzer ’15 also has a small non-speaking role, and Hayley Singleton ’15 and Mary Richards ’15 dress.

Good: This show is funny, and it is fun. From Bertha, the overweight, over-busy mother of three to Petey, the nervy Humane Society advocate, the characters are both recognizable and larger-than-life.  Nick and Nathaniel both exhibit enormous ranges of emotion, physicality and voice in creating each of the 17 characters, and clearly have fun doing it. Never is there a question which character you are looking at or listening to, and never a dull moment. There is a dark underbelly to the play, through which these overblown characters have moments of something really human and true. In particular, Nick’s portrayal of Stanley Bumiller and Nathaniel’s rendering of Elmer Watkins bring to light something of the innocence and other paradoxes inherent in sinister motives.

The dizzying speed at which costumes change back and forth from character to character is effected marvelously by Hayley and Mary whose backstage ninja skills should be noted by anyone looking for a dresser. The show moves forward at a brisk clip; an audience member told me last night they hadn’t even had time to think about the fact the actors were changing clothes until the show ended—like magic. The costumes themselves I can’t talk about without sounding like I’m bragging, but I am proud of the character work I did on this show, and I think the costumes are fun and effective in establishing characters quickly and effectively without being unnecessarily distracting. The fluidity of the show is supported by the simplicity and minimalism of the set design. Overall the design is very clean. Alan’s lights make my costumes look good. Grace’s sound work is brilliant as usual in making invisible things real and adding vibrancy to transitions.

Bad: I can really only nitpick on this one, because I don’t have any large critiques – I can’t, really, since I’m involved with the show. There are a few messy lighting moments we didn’t work out during tech because our lighting designer got sick – not things I think affect the audience very much. There isn’t soundproofing between the stage and the backstage area, so sometimes quick changes make clinking noises in the middle of the other actor’s monologue.

Broad: In general this is a really fun show. I would only stay away if you are a staunch tea-party republican fundamentalist with no sense of humor whatsoever. The show is relatively short, it’s unusual relative to the kind of work we tend to see on this campus, especially in the mechanics of its comedy, and promises a kind of insane fun just in the sheer range of characters expressed. There are 34 quick changes in this show; most of them happen in less than a minute. The actors have to be nimble and quick on their feet, and they’ll keep you on the edge of your seat.

Contextual Rating:  Friday and Saturday at 8pm are SOLD OUT but there are still a few seats left for Friday at 10:30. There will also be a waitlist at the door, so come early to try and get in.

 If you already have something planned this afternoon/ evening…

…have fun.  See a different show next week.

…do it.  See this show.

…put it off.  See this show.

…skip it. See Greater Tuna.

Emily Jacke ’12.5 is a Theatre Major with a focus in Costume Design from Jaffrey, NH.