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Little Theatre of Alexandria Greater Tuna

By • Jan 19th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Greater Tuna
Little Theatre of Alexandria
Little Theatre of Alexandria, Alexandria, VA
$15-$18
Playing through January 31st
Reviewed January 17, 2009

Greater Tuna is not a show that will appeal to everyone. This isn’t a traditional play…it’s a two person cast, and there’s very little in the way of an official storyline or set. Some of the humor is dated, and is at times offensive. However, it’s unique and when done well, an awfully entertaining way to spend an evening.

First of all, thunderous applause to the hard working, talented, and probably exhausted actors who played 20 characters between them! Shawn G. Byers played the “younger” roles and Jeff Murray played the “older” roles. Both played male and female roles with varying degrees of success.

The show focuses on life in a small town (Tuna, the third smallest town in Texas) in the 1970s. Various Southern stereotypes are visited…we meet the insufferable Bumiller family where Byers does triple duty as all the children in house. Murray portrays the hilarious matriarch of the family who counsels her children, takes care of countless stray dogs, and furiously chops vegetables while praying her lazy husband into a stroke. We also have a preacher, teenage hooligans, the elderly, the gossips, and the good ‘ol boys down at the local radio station. The storyline is laced with political satire & overzealous religion but the actors never allow themselves to be bogged down by any serious messages.

Byers really shines in a few of the roles, including Charlene Bumiller, the overweight high school senior who just can’t make cheerleader but gives poetry a new meaning…and as Petey Fisk, the dorky Humane Society teen out to save the world. He embodies both of these characters and gives them depth and humor. He doesn’t triumph in some of the more serious roles, but more than makes up for it in several others.

Murray is a real pro, especially when it comes to portraying old biddies! He gives amazing physicalization and vocal depth to Mrs. Bertha Bumiller and Pearl Burras (an outrageous elderly woman who takes perverse pleasure in poisoning local dogs) and makes them distinctive, memorable characters.

LTA usually gives us wonderful sets…this particular production doesn’t call for one and thus it’s kept minimal and functional. The lighting design (Nancy Owens) and sound design (David Hale) is functional and nicely done. One criticism: using total blackouts during scene changes pulls focus from the action and then the actors have to work even harder to keep the audience’s attention.

The costume design (Jean Schlichting & Kit Sibley) is spot on with appropriate colors and pieces that reflect that time period. A huge special mention needs to go to the running crew, who keep the actors in and out of innumerable wigs, costumes, and props…the changes from one complete character to another were absolutely seamless.

Director Alan Edick did a lovely job with casting and kept each vignette flowing.

The nearly sold out audience let their approval ring out with hearty laughter all night long. LTA has a winning combination of an able cast and an amazing backstage crew. It’s not for everyone, but if the general idea of the show works for you, then by all means reserve your ticket today! Greater Tuna continues through January 31, 2009.

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