Forty-six costume changes, 22 characters, two actors and one town: it's ProArts' production of "Greater Tuna," a hilarious snapshot of small-town Southern life set in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas. The two-man show, created by Joe Sears, Jaston Williams and Ed Howard and performed by Maui actors Jonathan Lehman and Tom Althouse, reveals a day in the lives of Tuna's neurotic, closed-minded but all-too-relatable residents.
The standard Southern stereotypes all make an appearance, but the characters, even the most bigoted and prejudiced, are all intriguing, funny and often even endearing in their own way.
Lehman and Althouse show off remarkable flexibility playing more than 10 characters each, of both genders and various ages. Lehman is powerful as Bertha Bumiller, mother of three problem children, grudging caretaker of eight to 10 dogs, and wife to unfaithful husband Hank (also played by Lehman). He brings out both her humor and vulnerability, playing her with such sincerity that it's easy to forget that he is cross-dressing for the role.
Tom Althouse (left) and Jonathan Lehman are consummate quick-change artists working through more than 10 roles each in this tour-de-farce
He is equally effective as Bertha's mean-hearted Aunt Pearl, who makes a hobby of poisoning her neighbor's dogs. As Elmer Watkins, head of the local chapter of the KKK, he is downright creepy in his devotion to making the town safe "for the right kind of people."
Althouse is brilliant as awkward but eager Petey Fisk, head of the Greater Tuna Humane Society and enthusiastic animal rights activist. He is a riot as Vera Carp, the snobbish vice president of the Smut Snatchers of the New Order, with huge blonde hair, swinging hips and a shrill, condescending drawl. He also plays all three of Bertha's children, from delinquent Stanley, to pouty wanna-be cheerleader Charlene, to naive, dog-loving Jody.
Althouse and Lehman have wonderful chemistry as radio announcers Arles Struvie and Thurston Wheelis. Another great moment together is the scene between Sheriff Givens (Lehman), who believes in old-fashioned justice, and a falsely cocky Stanley Bumiller (Althouse), who fears that the sheriff might finally have the evidence he needs to lock him up for good.
* "Greater Tuna" plays 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through June 12 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Reserved seats are $20 for adults and $15 for students 18 and under. Kama'aina Nights are Thursdays. Hawaiian residents get a discount for those performances. During the run, ProArts Playhouse will showcase artwork by Jack Gray and Leslie Granite. Call 463-6520 for tickets or more information.
Marsha Kelly designed the richly detailed and often amusing costumes, while Danny Jo styled the show's many wigs and hairpieces. Jett Batoon, Barbara Sedano and Rio Carmen Roberts act as quick-change artists, no small feat in a show where the actors transform from character to character in a matter of seconds. The carefully orchestrated costume changes came off without a hitch on opening night.
While the wild variety of costumes adds humor and interest to the show, the actors never use them as a crutch. They give each of their characters a strong identity that would show through with or without costumes.
Directed by Kristi Scott and Doug Kendrick, with set by Caro Walker, lighting by Bonnie Prucha and brilliant acting by two of the best performers on Maui, "Greater Tuna" is a funny and occasionally poignant look at the pitfalls of small-town Southern life and the pratfalls of human nature.
MAPA summer camps
Calling all young actors ages 8 and older Maui Academy of Performing Arts offers top-notch training in acting, singing and dancing in this summer's Musical Theatre Camps. You'll get to apply all of that training onstage in full-scale productions of Disney's "Aristocats Kids" and "Honk, Jr." at Steppingstone Playhouse in Queen Ka'ahumanu Center. The Aristocats camp for students entering grades 3 to 8 runs through June 22 with performances June 23 to 26. The Honk camp for students entering grades 6 to 12 runs June 8 to July 15 with performances July 15 to 24. With tuition less than $5 per hour, these camps are a great deal! MAPA also offers other dance and drama camps and classes throughout the summer. For more information, go to www.mauiacademy.org or call MAPA at 244-8760.
Kamp Krazy Tales
Taught by drama instructor Kristi Scott and music instructor Marti Kluth, students ages 5 to 10 will learn fun drama games and music techniques at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. The camp will culminate with a short performance for parents. Come have fun during summer break! Preregistration is required. No previous experience is necessary. Tuition is $150.
For more information, call 276-4847 or visit mkluth.com.