Prepare my certification. It took me more than twenty years, but I have finally completed what has come to be known as the “Tuna Trilogy.” The journey began in New York, in a small theatre in Lower Manhattan, back in the early 1980’s. A friend and I attended a production of the hilarious Joe Sears / Jaston Williams comedy concoction, “Greater Tuna.” The two-man show, performed by the authors themselves in multiple nutty roles, is set in Tuna, Texas, which, we are told, is the third smallest town in the Lone Star State. The show was a hoot, and has toured the nation ever since. Then, in November of 2003, right here in Montgomery County’s Nancy Bock Performing Arts Center, I joined with another audience that roared with laughter as Sears and Williams performed “A Tuna Christmas,” with its cast of small town lunatics helping to make the season merry. And now, with last week’s performances of “Red, White and Blue Tuna,” at Conroe’s historic Crighton Theatre, the boy’s were at it again with as much fun as ever.
The modest set had a couple of tables, some chairs, and a handsome old floor model radio. With these few tools and a seemingly endless supply of zany costume changes, the actors brought us back again to the riotous world of Tuna, as its oddball cast of characters wander in and out of the action. Allow me to give you a sampling.
In this edition, it is the Fourth of July and the town is preparing to select a Reunion Queen to ride on the parade float. Will it be Didi Snavely, proprietor of Didi’s Used Weapons? She cautions us that “Fireworks make a pop, but a good firearm makes a point! If our forefathers had bigger and better weapons, it would be Mexico that remembered the Alamo!” Meanwhile, big Bertha Bumiller struts her stuff in a lime green pantsuit with patriotic stars on her bright red blouse. She hopes to marry Arles Struvie, but is concerned about taking on his pet cat, Pinky. To quote Bertha: “Cat’s are like politicians. They rub up against you to get what they want, and then they pee on the couch!” Bertha’s daughter, Charlene, is very pregnant (she’s been warned to stay off the carpet and remain on the linoleum, lest her water should break). Charlene is quite upset that the doctor won’t let her eat jerky. To make matters worse, she has run out of malted milk balls!
Elderly Pearl Burras is just beginning to live as she announces, “I wouldn’t give you day old bread for my sex life before I was 65!” Then we have a couple of dated hippies in Amber Windchime and Star Birdfeather. Between reefers, they are still trying to hang on to the dreams of Flower Children: “We can’t be brought down by people who haven’t dined at the table of enlightenment!” Then there’s temperamental Vera Carp who considers herself quite the granddame, and goes through Mexican housekeepers by the dozen. To make it easier, she calls them all Lupe.
Other characters included Leonard Childers in his powder blue western leisure suit, with the best silver fox toupee since Marvin Zindler. Leonard shares W.C. Field’s love of children and quips longingly, “There was a time when you could legally kill kids!” Then there is the Rev. Sturgis Spikes, a sort of cross between Big Daddy and Oliver Hardy, with his straw hat and the white suit of a southern colonel. Helen Bed and Inita Goodwin look like the square dance version of the Red Hat Society.
Meanwhile, space ships come and go, fireworks explode, and Arles and Bertha finally get off on that honeymoon. As George Strait sings, “Let’s Chase Each Other ’Round The Room Tonight,” Bertha instructs Arles: “I want to be pursued!” Beyond that, one suspects that Sears and Williams will be pursued by comedy-lovers for years to come.
(The Courier 8.10.05)