Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 9, 2019

REVIEW: Majestic Theater, The Tuna Goddess

Majestic Theater, West Springfield, MA
through October 13, 2019
by Shera Cohen

After dispensing with the quirky and nonsensical title of Majestic Theater’s season opener, “The Tuna Goddess” is one of the most spirited plays in this theatre company’s 23-year-run. For those audience-goers who enjoyed “Outside Mullingar” last season, “Tuna” will be quite reminiscent; not so much in plot but character development of its two leads.

Set in the early years of the turn of the century – this century, the 21st – in a small Cape Cod town, fishing tuna is the trade. The text tosses in some nautical jargon, assuming that everyone watching the happenings know what all of this stuff is. We don’t. We don’t care. It is the interaction of the characters that is paramount; each knowing the other in their tiny world.

The word (is it a word?) “dramady” has become popular when writing reviews. Is seems that gone are the early days of Neil Simon and Woody Allen; replaced by a dramatic story with humor and humanity mixed in to create the closest to real life as is possible. Playwright Jade Schuyler, a relative newbie as a writer, paints her picture of present day, the past, and sometimes simultaneously. The best example is Lexi Langs’ Alexandra (a high-power business exec) standing across the stage with Larkin Fox’s Young Alex (age 8 or so, playing fisher-girl at the dock).

The crux of the tale is the question: will high school friends Alexandra and Pete (portrayed with intense struggles by Erick Kastel) ultimately hook up in spite of many roadblocks; the biggest being their own thoughts and passions.

The play is quite long. Not that verbal banter and visual movement for each character isn’t well written, a few sections could have been completely deleted. Better yet, snips here and there in many scenes could smooth out the play, emphasize the reality of day-to-day conversation, and avoid repetition.

For many years, writers for In the Spotlight (and its predecessor Bravo Newspaper) have sung the praises of Greg Trochlil, Set Designer. As a full-stage kitchen turns in a circle to become a boat deck, the audience is in awe of Trochlil’s talent. Kudos to the quick moving well-choreographed set movers as well.

When a production of an excellent play is to be critiqued, sometimes there is little to write. So, here’s some minutia. Cate Damon is the only actor to maintain a Cape Cod/Maine accent throughout. Actor Tom Dahl’s lines call for belching, blaring laughter, and too many “F” words to count. Yes, these are the words of the play, but Dahl goes over-board. Finally, and most importantly, one very disturbing factor, which surely Majestic staff can “fix,” was clear-as-a-bell talking by two or three stagecrew members behind the curtain, stage right, disturbing an extremely emotional scene by the lead male. This interruption is a theatre “no-no.”

Note: Before bringing young kids to see “Tuna,” realize that the language is often PG or R rated.