Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 14, 2011

Greater Tuna

Majestic Theater, West Springfield, MA
“Greater Tuna”
through December 18, 2011
by K.J. Rogowski

“Greater Tuna,” by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard, challenges both its actors and its audiences on several levels.

First, two actors must play a myriad of roles, requiring fast costume and faster character changes. Second, scenes deal with many topics, some just plain silly, and others of a hit close to home nature. Last, the challenge of the show is in which the direction the sets and props best succeed. In this case, basically, less is more. All of these facets must work together to achieve this show’s primary purpose -- a night of raucous comedy.

The Majestic’s production delivers on most of these, but misses some comic opportunities. James Hartman and J.T. Waite dash on and off stage, appearing in numerous funny costumes, depicting 20 of Tuna’s 26 inhabitants, which is no mean task. While most of the scenes/topics play well, several seem to miss that humor mark. For example, a KKK member delivering a diatribe on violence, or the effects of Agent Orange on Vietnam veterans has one impact on an audience, and it’s not funny. The possibility exists for the actor to portray the character and his messages with a tone that mocks both the character and the message, to deliver the pointed humor intended.

The ‘less is more’ factor, at times, makes the audience think ‘where are they, and what are they doing ’ before going on to get the laughs. Here the set is especially important, since it is comprised of only two kitchen tables, four chairs, and a radio. An example is when the designated ‘radio station’ table suddenly becomes another kitchen. The same happens regarding the use of props, since there are none. Virtually all props are pantomimed -- phones, violins, papers, dogs, and dishes -- except at the end when a gun just appears. With its funny folks and pointed humor, “Greater Tuna” should deliver greater laughs.